Sunrise Above the Fog – Patience Paying Off
Recently I wrote a post titled 10 Things Photography Has Taught Me About Life. In that post, the item that I gave the most value to was patience. A few weeks ago this paid off for me in the best way.
Mount Evans is a 14er which sits on the front range just outside of the Denver metroplex. On it is the highest paved road in North America which is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year. Since moving to Colorado in 2007 I’ve kept a daily eye on the weather hoping to see a prediction of slow moving storms which bring low fog through the valley below the peak’s summit. Time and time again I’ve left my house at 3:30 AM only to catch a cloud-free sunrise or a dense whiteout. Watching a new day begin from 14,000 feet made each trip worth it, but continually not getting what I set out to see was a huge test to my patience.
That all changed last week.
“A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else.” – George Savile
Once again, the all-too-familiar buzzing of my alarm alerted me at 3:30 AM to the journey ahead. After starting the morning brew, I checked the forecast once more. Rather than the typical “partly cloudy” forecasts I’d seen for years, one word made my heart jump. Fog. Living in San Francisco for three months had me comfortable with this forecast. For the front range of the Rocky Mountains, however, it’s abnormal at best. I grabbed the fresh carafe of coffee and my camera gear and ran out the door. Driving out of the city proved promising. Light rain and thick clouds. My goal for the morning – low fog or not – was to shoot some casual camping lifestyle photos on the ridge between Mount Evans and Mount Bierstadt. Even if high clouds were covering the summit, maybe they would be thin enough to get some nice filtered light from the rising sun.
Once reaching the main exit at Idaho Springs, the clouds really began to thicken, making the drive up the mountain move slowly. Creeping along at 15 mph with visibility at nearly zero, I started to wonder if I would even make it to the summit for sunrise. Higher and higher up the narrow road I drove, hoping to break the cloud’s ceiling. Within the last few miles of the summit, the familiar frustration set in. Once more this morning wasn’t going to be it and I would have to try again. But, like a light at the end of the tunnel, and just as I rounded the second to the last hairpin turn below the summit, morning light began to shine through. I could see boulders. A little higher and I could see a faint orange glow on the horizon where Denver typically lies. Just above it was the moon lighting a full layer of fog filling the whole valley just like I had imagined it should on every previous trip. Yes!! This was what I had waited for for half a decade!
The scene provided a perfect composition for the shots I wanted to capture. I knew immediately what I wanted to bring home. Quickly, I set up the camera and fired off a few snapshots simply to capture the moment. Typically at the Evans summit the wind whips around making it difficult to even hear yourself think. Calling this morning calm wouldn’t do it justice. It was still. Peaceful almost. Without wind, setting up the tent was piece of cake. A leftover patch of snow from the winter season made a nice foreground to contrast the bright orange tent. I set up the self timer to shoot one shot every three seconds and began to capture a few lifestyle scenes I had in mind.
As I was shooting, the fog rose. Quickly it rose up to me and visibility once again became zero. Overall, I had about 15 minutes to take photographs. The best moment came right before getting completely socked in. The rising sun crest the horizon, covering the tops of the rising clouds in a warm orange glow. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the day. The moment was over almost as quickly as it started. I could’ve spent hours soaking it in. I would’ve liked to timelapse the floating clouds. There are hundreds more shots I could’ve capture. I don’t care. The moment was perfect and I’m incredibly thankful for one of the best mornings of my life. It was everything I waited for and more.
I don’t believe in the old saying, “You can’t always get what you want”. I believe that with enough hard work, enough research, and enough patience that we can achieve anything we want. Patience is indeed a virtue and when big things like this pay off, it reconfirms my faith in it. Just when it seems like it’ll never happen – it always does.