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

Mount Evans Thick Fog

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.

Mount Evans Fog Rocks

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!

Mount Evans Fog Black and White

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.

Mount Evans Fog Pano

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.

Mount Evans Fog Sunrise

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.

Mount Evans Fog Sunrise Shaka

  • Awesome shots….The one with the timber line just visible has that perfect amount of drama to it…..

  • SUN GAZING METHODThe time you do sun gazing is to look into white clouds and you need not look at the sun. The idea is for your eyes to receive full light spectrum, for a couple of minutes, such as 1-2 minutes. You need not stare too long, but you can do enough that you feel well enough then stop. Then if you feel you need some more exposure due to depression, tiredness, or burnout, look at it again. The key is not to strain but to relax. If you feel a strain in looking into the white light such as the sky or clouds, then you should really stop. Once the body is removed of its strain and the feeling that your body is being filled up with energy then that is the key to successful sun gazing. The idea is to do it at different times of the day, especially in morning and late afternoon. What exact times really depends on how much sun you are getting at each particular time.

  • Roxanne macdonald

    Beautiful!
    Thank you so much for sharing the story behind the incredible view!