I loathe getting out of bed before dawn.

I Loathe Getting Out of Bed before Dawn…

Big Pine, CA

I loathe getting out of bed before dawn.  This morning was the third in a string of early ones.  The iPhone strummed its 'call to lens'… and at once I’m hurtling down the highway at 65mph. 

The silhouettes of small towns shoot by, literally in seconds.  The first, faint blue light dawns to my right, over the White Mountains. The clock is ticking. There is a do or die aspect to dawntreading that quickens a photographer.  Either you are ready, just before a singular warm light caresses the peaks and valleys, or you’re not.  No excuses.  No one, not even a higher power to appeal to.  There is an absolute, ‘you can’t phone it in’ quality to sunrise photography.  A private, bravura performance between nature and you that lasts only minutes. Most of the time, no one else will ever notice.

If I’m on my game, and the gods and goddesses of the land grant their blessings, I can enter the scene and co-create (I don’t like the word or idea of capture…more on that some other time) some great images.  There’s both the product and the process in play here. In truth, it’s the act of being there, making that commitment without any promise of reward, that inspires me even more than a great image.  Maybe you’ve experienced this too.

The sun was still well below the horizon when it began to drip a golden aspenglow onto the peaks of the Sierras.  Tripod set, I began to render the progression of light, the birth of a day.  Being there, in those very moments for the birth of a day.  How cool is that?

Amidst all this activity, something caught my eye to the right.  There, floating above the still dark valley, like a ship visiting from another solar system, was a lenticular formation - a huge, circular, whispy cloud, in delicately layered shades of pink, fuscia, purple and orange.  I hesitated, not believing it was real or that I could photograph it (early morning is ripe for such strange musings). I take just three shots and then it's over.

Morning fully arrives.  Shadows dissolve into hard light.  Subtle colors scurry under the rocks and trees to wait until dusk.

On the ride back, feeling transported as often happens after a dawn shoot, I turned on the radio.  There is only one station out of Big Pine…a local evangelical network playing gospel.  The lead singer’s voice, smooth as Marvin Gaye or Seal, soared over the choir who sang Peace in the Valley:


There the flow'rs will be blooming,the grass will be green

And the skies will be clear and serene…

There the bear will be gentle, the wolf will be tame

And the lion will lay down by the lamb…

I'll be changed from the creature I am

There'll be peace in the valley for me some

There'll be peace in the valley for me

…no more sorrow and sadness or trouble will be

There'll be peace in the valley for me

A breeze clean and cool, blew through the car. The pale blue sky was dotted with puffy clouds. I smiled. I was a believer. 

I love getting out of bed before dawn.