Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Liquid Sky Beckoned Me

I woke up last Sunday morning at about 5:00am, which is not unusual for me, but I was compelled to get in my truck and drive about 30 miles east of my home to some farmland in eastern Colorado, to get photos of the sunrise.

The sky was clear, and after a day of light snow on Saturday, and the temperature sitting at right about freezing, this was not my typical morning to go shoot; usually under these conditions the sunrise is unremarkable (if there is such a thing).

For some reason, I was motivated to get out with my camera, and in hindsight, I am grateful that I did.

I was driving on a stretch of road in Watkins, CO that I frequent, before sunrise, when I saw what appeared to be a glowing UFO in the field ahead of my truck. It actually took me a few seconds to clearly rule out the possibility that: 1 - it might be a bright reflection off of some bizarre metallic object in the farmer's field, and, 2 - (for a split-second fleeting moment) the possibility of some unexplained craft. It was oval shaped, like a radiant pancake glowing in the meadow, and appeared to be even a bit below the horizon.

After a second (really, just a second), I realized that I was witnessing the first evidence of the sun coming up over the horizon, but in a distorted form.

A Sunrise Mirage.

I suppose I have spent my entire life with "my head in the clouds". I was constantly accused of daydreaming as a child, and was scorned over many a parent-teacher conference with my instructors concerned that, "Scott is intelligent, but it just seems like his attention is elsewhere, and we are concerned that his daydreaming may interfere with him becoming a productive member of society". I am fortunate to have been raised by open-minded parents, who do not necessarily believe that societal-convention is king, so to speak. They encouraged my artistic notions throughout my adolescence, and, as I grew into adulthood, they went from being my parents to being my parents and some of my best friends.

As an adult (term used loosely), I am fortunate that I have forged a life for myself where I am now permitted (by my own standards) to live with my head in the clouds; to take time to look up at the sky in wonder and marvel at our amazing universe, and I constantly and purposely give myself permission to do so. We are each an integral part of a mind-numbingly large universe, and in my own recognition and acceptance of that, there is a profound sense of peace, and oddly, a greater sense of purpose and place than when I am caught up in the details of life that society, civilization, and convention dictate. One might think that recognizing how small we each are in the universe might make us feel tiny and insignificant, but I have found the opposite - I am a tiny being in a massive universe, and recognizing how small I am seems to give me permission to do what I do, and freedom to follow my heart without worrying that I have strayed too far from convention. Within this freedom I feel more well-adjusted than ever.

A couple years ago, I became enthralled by a website called Atmospheric Optics. Headed up by Les Cowley in England, Atmospheric Optics is a website that catalogs and explains all of the wonders of the visual spectacles that the sky, the sun, the moon, and the earth's atmosphere provide us here on earth, from both a scientific and an ordinary perspective. I have spent many hours on Les' site, and had no idea how many things were happening in the sky while we are running around doing our thing, not unlike a busy ant colony.

What I witnessed the other morning is spectacular to me, and I don't know what compelled me to go out that morning, but I am glad I was there to witness it, and glad I could capture some moments of it, within the four borders of my photographs. As I see it, the only way photographs could be more remarkable would be to somehow remove the four borders of the photo, but that would only mean you would have to be there in person. Such is the conundrum that makes photography so exciting.

You can see the sequence of photos at I will eventually be putting a timelapse video of it on there as well.

Les Cowley at Atmospheric Optics stated that although sunset mirages are somewhat frequent, sunrise mirages are quite rare. He will be featuring my experience as "Today's Feature" on the Atmospheric Optics website sometime next week, and I'm sure will shed a much more scientific light on the subject. Until then, feel free to explore Les' site. I think it is absolutely amazing.

As for me, I am off to Moab to go stare at (and photograph) the sky and desert landscape for the entire week. There's nothing I'd rather be doing right now, and I feel like the luckiest guy on earth. I'll share more of my inspiration and awe as it is presented to me.

Until then, look up at the sky more often; you never know what amazing things may be happening right above your head.

Follow-up - 04.20.08
The Sunrise mock mirage is "Today's Feature" at the Atmospheric Optics website
The permanent link to my photos of the Sunrise Mirage page is here:

Thanks Les!