Sunday, 22 April 2012

What Makes It All Worthwhile

There's always risk when you have the car packed with all your photography gear and set off on a mammoth road trip in the hope that nature will play ball with your best laid plans. Will it be sunny, or cloudy, will it pour with rain, will mist descend so much so that you can barely see past the end of your own nose?

In this particular case it involved me driving for around 8 hours from San Francisco Bay Area to Death Valley, with a few stops along the way to shoot the night sky and milky way in such a wonderful "dark sky" location and then finding my way to my chosen vantage point inside the national park before sunrise.

Fatigue had well and truly set in after the long drive coupled with shooting in absolute darkness for several hours, and I found myself thinking ahead to what the day might bring. As I stepped out of the car at Dantes View high up on the East side of the salt-covered valley floor at Badwater with nothing more than the stars above and the slight outline of the peaks and valleys in the distance, the strong winds and freezing cold temperatures hit me all so much harder than had I been more awake, and jolted me back to reality with an almighty thump.

A quick check of the time, 4.50am, which meant around 90 minutes until the sun was due to pop it's cheery face over the horizon, 90 minutes, "perfect" I thought to myself and set my alarm for 5.30am, time for 40 winks to prepare myself for the day ahead.

It seemed like I had just set the alarm seconds before, but sure enough a quick check of the time showed that I had been off in la-la land for 40 minutes, time to rise and shine. I brought the drivers seat upright again and setpped outside, the sky was still black, albeit with a very feint tinge of blue on the horizon, yes, things were shaping up perfectly, argh, I had forgotten all about the freezing cold winds, quickly, I retreated back to the cozy warmth of the car.

There was around an hour left to go until the sun would rise over the darkness that lay all around me, but already there were signs that nature was starting to put on it's colourful show, with those dark blues in the distance starting to give way to lighter hues minute by minute. Every 5 to 10 minutes I would venture out of the car, layered up to the max (minus a pair of gloves which would REALLY have come in handy, if you can excuse the pun) and shoot some frames of the changing colours whilst trying to stop my tripod and camera from doing an impersonation of a kite flying off into the distance.

In my head I started wondering once again if the sunrise was going to have been worth the torture that only those that have spent a night driving an unfamiliar and uncomfortable hirecar know, and then came the answer.

The silhouettes of the hills still lay shrouded in darkness whilst behind them the sky began to light up with reds, oranges and yellows, warming me up as they danced around, finally I had the answer I had been seeking all night, yes, it had been worth it, I now had an awesome sunrise shot from Death Valley to add to my growing collection of sunset and sunrise photos from around the world.

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