Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pawnee Sunrise

Last night the great Walt Borneman and I did a slide presentation at the REI flagship store in Denver. Afterwards I decided to feed my wanderlust beast and drove up to Pawnee National Grasslands in northeastern Colorado. I pulled into the Pawnee Buttes overlook about 11:30, tired as all getout, slipped some Steve Vai tunes into the CD player, cranked it to ear-splitting level and drifted off to sleep.

When I woke up at 4:15, it was so windy I doubted the wisdom of hiking out towards the buttes for sunrise photos. My nephew (and budding photographer) Charley was going to drive out to meet me, but I sent him a text message that read simply, "Don't bother. WINDY!!!," and went back to sleep. Half an hour later I awoke again, and there was the kid parked right next to me. Sometimes technology moves slowly. Or not at all.

A short time later, as we stood outside our vehicles contemplating our immediate future, I looked down to behold the wonder of my completely flat front tire. Aw geez, what a way to start a morning! The sun was still maybe 15 minutes from cresting the horizon, so, with Charley's help, I got to the task of changing the tire. I didn't really think I'd be pulling out the camera anyway (windy, hazy and cloudless is no way to go through life, son...), so I thought I'd get the grunt work out of the way.

Wouldn't you know it, when the sun did come up, the haze made its disc a very appealing subject when combined with the silhouettes of the buttes. Charley started to shoot, while I stood there watching the show. By the time I got a clue and thought maybe I'd like some pictures of this, the sun had risen high enough above the crud near the horizon that it was now a harsh, not-easily-photographed fireball. I took a few shots regardless (including some with the sun out-of-frame – click to enlarge), and made note for future reference that right around the summer solstice it's completely feasible to photograph the sun rising right between the two Pawnee Buttes. I had mapped out a scenario weeks ago to catch the moon rising between the buttes next December, around the winter solstice, but it might be nice to have both photos in my repertoire, provided the desolate roads leading out there aren't snowed in for my December moonrise plans.

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