Landscape photographers seek out compositions during sunrise and sunset for good reason. The low angle of the sun passing through the earth’s atmosphere can paint the skies and landscape with warm colors and create what is called sweet light.
My house sits on a mountainside overlooking Eagle River Valley in Southcentral Alaska. Looking to the east one morning, I saw that the high clouds were beginning to pick up color from the sun’s first rays. It had the promise to be an epic winter sunrise. I could see, however, that there was a potential spoiler in the making; ground fog was filling in the valley. Too much fog would obscure the sky and the landscape, but just enough fog would add to the mood of the sunrise. I was hoping for the latter.
Quickly, I gathered my camera gear and drove the short one mile to a trailhead. From there I hiked one-half mile along the frozen river to a favorite location for landscape compositions. As the scene opened before me, instantly I knew my aspirations for the morning would be exceeded. The fog was thin enough for the mountains to be visible, yet covered them in a velvety veil of soft pinks and magentas. It seemed to amplify the sky’s growing color! Even the snow on the river picked up color; for a moment the heavens and earth were merged into one. I stood there in awe and wonder. The glowing fog turned the winter world into a dreamscape as the new day dawned.
I ended up taking nearly one hundred images as the fog continued its gentle march over the land. This was my favorite of the morning. During post-processing I found myself decreasing saturation lest viewers think this surreal sunrise was a Photoshop creation. Fortunately, many of my photographer friends could attest to the morning’s vivid display. We never know exactly how the sun’s light will interact with the earth’s atmosphere. Each sunrise is unique. This one reminded me of the words of philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel, “to become aware of the ineffable is to part company with words.”