General Thoughts
Angry Sky at Dawn © jj raia

Angry Sky at Dawn — Wake County, NC  © jj raia

I stopped by an art gallery a few years back and saw a painting on the wall that was huge, but almost entirely one color with just a very small sliver along the bottom that brought the whole thing into perspective. It was an interesting concept, but I didn’t really care for it as a whole since if it were hung on the wall in your home, you would simply see a very large rectangle of one color until discovering the detail of the objects along the very bottom. It wasn’t long afterward that I happened to get up one morning and saw what appeared to be a cold front passing through with some very angry clouds on it’s leading edge, and since it was near dawn, I grabbed my camera. As the sun began to illuminate the clouds with an odd light, I did my best to hand hold a few shots. I didn’t want to include the rooftops of the nearby homes, but did include just the top of a few trees that luckily, lined up just where I would have wanted them to be even if I had the freedom to move to either side of where I stood. It was the painting that I had seen previously that inspired me to take this shot with only the treetops giving the whole image a bit of perspective. Although more of the sky was originally included for the whole solid block of color idea and sliver of reality along the bottom edge, I ended up cropping some of it out for this post, but still like the full image as well since the clouds contain some differing values rather than simply one homogenous color. In addition, since there was so much contrast between the leafless branches and the sky, many of the thinner branches were blown out so they had to be “remanufactured” in Photoshop. I would have like to have had the time to use a split neutral density filter and a tripod, but time didn’t allow for that. Working on the limbs was a bit tedious, but was done in a way that created a more painterly interpretation rather than the literal view of the camera in keeping with the artwork that inspired it.

Pounding Mills Sunrise — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Pounding Mills Sunrise — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

It’s rare, when after you’ve identified a great location for a sunrise or sunset, that the forces of the universe line up properly on that particular day you’re there, and actually get that great otherworldly sight you’ve always sought. But when it happens, it’s pretty thrilling. To see a sunrise or sunset like the one above in solitude is icing on the cake. The reality is if it’s a great spot, solitude most likely won’t be in the cards. As was the case here, I shared the experience with about 40-50 other photographers lined up, shoulder to shoulder, along the parking lot, tripod legs intertwined. There are advantages to the solo experience in that you feel you are witnessing a remarkable event in the timeline of the earth; you feel more connected. The crowd on the other hand, offers a bit of camaraderie in a shared experience and the opportunity to talk to others of like mind; but the strong connection to the sunrise or sunset is somewhat lost.

Of the sunrises included here, I felt a stronger connection to the first even though I was not in a remote location surrounded with a sublime landscape, but never the less felt I was witnessing a unique event in the earth’s history. The location of the second was much more powerful and majestic, but the crowd made it feel like I was a fan in the stands at a sporting event. I was thrilled when the clouds lit up pink just before dawn and was in total awe as the sun rose above the distant horizon, but the personal relationship with the event was slightly bittersweet.


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