Lessons from the Shenandoah National Park

I recently posted about hiking to the top Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park to photograph what turned out to be a beautiful sunrise from the summit. Being on the top of that mountain taught me to experience sunrises and sunsets in a different way. I’ve always looked for that decisive moment when the light is at it’s peak. Now I realize that a sunrise is a story that starts at first light and ends when the dawn colors fade. Sunsets are the same, just in the opposite direction.

This realization really came home recently when I went to photograph the sunrise in the New Jersey Pinelands. This sunrise was a story of light and weather that I was able to witness as the sun rose just before a storm front moved in.

When you go out to photograph a sunrise, it is usually impossible to predict what will happen. It’s something I fret over before heading out, especially on a warm muggy morning. After hiking to a location then standing around swatting mosquitos while pointing a camera at the brightening sky, you hope to get something out of it.

Early Twilight

On this morning there was no disappointment. I saw a predicted storm front coming in from the north and hoped to get a window of nice light before the clouds covered the sky completely. The photograph below was made with the camera facing north, away from where the sun was going to rise.

Storm Light Before The Dawn by Richard Lewis 2016

Approaching Storm Before Dawn by Richard Lewis 2016 @5:51am

Fortunately, the front moved in slowly which allowed for some beautiful light as the sun rose over the Franklin Parker Preserve, one of the gems, in the New Jersey Pinelands. The following is the progression of light from just before sunrise to the point where the clouds finally started to overtake the rising sun. The time each photograph was made has been added to the caption.

Before The Dawn inthe Pinelands by Richard Lewis

Just Before Sunrise by Richard Lewis 2016 @6:01am

Sunrise In The Franklin Parker Preserve by Richard Lewis

Sunrise In The Franklin Parker Preserve by Richard Lewis 2016 @6:04am

What really caught my eye during the sunrise were the colors and how the mist on the lake glowed bright red for a brief time.

Burning Mist in the Pinelands by Richard Lewis

Burning Mist by Richard Lewis 2016 @6:14am

Just Another Jersey Sunrise in the Pinelands by Richard Lewis

Just Another Jersey Sunrise by Richard Lewis 2016 @6:17am

As you can see in this last photograph, the storm clouds caught up with the sun making a complete change in the color of the light. This only lasted the briefest of time before the gray clouds completely covered the sun and the rain started.

Storm Front After Dawn in the Pine Barrens by Richard Lewis

Storm Front At Dawn by Richard Lewis 2016 @6:29am

Dawn is a mystical time when night transitions into day. This one was just a brief window where an impending storm left room for a spectacular sunrise. Please feel free to leave a comment below.