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!


RainforestRobin said...

WOW!!! I expected to see a 100 comments here. I hardly know where to start. I loved the bit about feeling "insignificant" and it being powerful. I felt that in the Daintree Rainforest, the world's oldest tropical rainforest. I felt like I was nothing in a forest that was over 100 million years old. And YET in my insignificance I felt more whole and powerful than I ever had in my life. Thank you for understanding and writing about this so beautifully.

Also the thought of removing the four corners of the photographs was expressed so well. Enjoyed your natural warmth and humor even in this post and with it your ability to convey depth, beauty and wonder.

I went and looked at the sunrise sequence you did and they are remarkable...stunning. With the black background I felt like I was there. Will also check out the other site you suggest. Thank you for another memorable post.

Scott said...

Robin, thank you.
You make me Happy!
(In reference to your recent common sayings post). I just signed up for your blog so now I'll be able to comment directly there...

The Daintree Rainforest must be spectacular! I wold love to find out for myself someday.

Thanks so much for reading and your feedback. From you, it is an honor.

Attn readers: If you have not read Robin's blog - you really should.

Jay D. Mills said...

Hey Scott, enjoy Moab! I wish I were going but the house construction & other things keep me here in Panama. Fantastic shots, but I have come to expect that from you! Woof from Blue.

The Fearless Blog said...

Spectacular photos....

You were at the right place at the right time, and you WERE fortunately looking in the right direction.

I am not a professional photographer, but I do tend to hang around with my camera in my purse. In fact, my colleagues are surprized when I don't have it with me.

Some of the most beautiful photos I have taken occured when I was just "lookin up." :) Thanks for sharing.

sky said...

Namaste' Scott! this was a phenom post!!! I recognize some dear souls comments here !! I too am surprised you dont have more comments right now. But you don't write for comments, though and I know personally if someone is only going to post a comment because I post on theirs, or feel obliged to, Id rather have no comments.

Your visionary way (not just with words here) has me sharing in a world with you, not all too different as you might think from my own, but unique to itself, for even if two walk a same path, it is never identical as the next persons. ;0)

I was like you in school, teachers could get quite annoyed with me and tell me to stop dreaming, I cannot explain/describe in words those *trips* I took, away from the monotony of scholastic studies, but I know they felt freeing to me, and helped to only continue to build who I was.

It is good I was a rebel in many ways, cause the teachers might have helped to break that spirit down.

The nights I would lay out on my parents deck staring up at the sky, or in the middle of nowhere, or getting up to greet the sunrise as I still do, there is NOTHING more glorious than to understand how yes small we may be, but also in that knowledge come to also understand how much power that adds at the same time, and how much freedom such a thing will grant.

I know every sunrise my soul, like a mythical phoenix, feels like it is rising as well, and as I watch the sun set, and once more depart like an old friend, I hope to share another moment in ceremonial harmony.

Thank you darlin!

You rock Scott! I am glad to know you.



Scott said...

Thank you Jay, Fearless, and Sky!
I would have responded sooner, but my wireless connection here is non-existant.... Will be back in Colorado with many photos and stories of my last week in the desert by the weekend. It has been a wonderful adventure.

Jay, it was a last minute opportunity for me to get out and do it, so I did it! I thought of you - I've visited some of the spots where you and I were kicking around in the dark two years ago. Still magnificent and not many people around at all. I forgot how good the desert smells at night - I think it's the Junipers maybe - that fragrant and a little bit spicy aroma that comes to life after the sun sets. Wish I had another week here.

Sky, Fearless, Robin, and Jay, thanks again for reading and sharing - you all inspire me with your writings and views of life. I am in good company.

Koh Samui said...

Beautiful photos!!!

RainforestRobin said...

Hi Scott,

Was just checking in...spent time going more slowly through your gallery. Looked at it while back but had more time tonight and it is stunning. There is such peace and stillness in your photos and yet they are NOT static. They are rich and evoke emotion in me. It is almost like I get to feel the wonder and excitement you felt while taking them. You are very talented in both your photography and writing. I think it's just how you see the world, who you are that gives your work such a beautiful quality. Thanks again. :)

Stacey Huston said...

Hello scott, just wanted to drop in and say great photos and a beautiful story to go with it.. so nice to see someone else that has passion for the natural world... Thanks for sharing

Scott said...

Thank you Koh, Robin and Stacey!

Koh, I know very little about Thailand, but will spend some time on your blog learning about it!

Robin, I am touched that you see my photos beyond just seeing them, if that makes sense. I attempt to capture that innate sense of mystery and wonder that ties all things together, and dances on the line between imagination and reality.

Stacey, I just discovered your wonderful blog, thanks to Robin, and it appears we have similar passions for nature and our amazing part of the planet! I'll be visiting frequently.


I have never seen anything like that. Beautiful and I appreciate you capturing it so we can all see it.

RainforestRobin said...

Hi Scott, Just stopped in to see....whatever! :)

Your comments here to everyone are so kind and thoughtful. I'll be back to see what you put up next. :) :) Thanks Scott, Robin

PS No rush, hopefully you are living your life and doing things you enjoy. That is always far better than blogging. Nothing can beat doing what we love or being in nature. So hopefully you are doing those things. :)