I woke naturally at 5:00 or 5:30 a.m. every morning of my stay on Mallard Island. Often it wasn’t even light yet, although on clear days color was beginning to show on the horizon an hour before actual sunrise. Still, I got up, grabbed a flashlight, a warm jacket, and my camera and walked the path past Front House to the eastern tip of the island.
Every morning I was joined by two of the three photographers in the group. Both were far better photographers than I am — they had tripods and light meters, knew how to take long exposures and make night time photos, and had a lot of expertise and hands-on experience backing up their work. They made beautiful time-lapsed photos of the Northern Lights. All this was beyond me. (I pretty much use the auto shoot/no flash mode for my photographs.)
We three (and occasionally one or another artist joined us) were the lucky ones, spectators of the Universe’s gifts of the sunrise. Every one was different, extravagant in its own way. One day when a thick bank of clouds covered the horizon, I was sure the sunrise was going to be a bust. I almost left to get breakfast. But then the clouds paraded by in magnificent splendor, and I was reminded once again of the rewards of patience.
On clear mornings, I was entranced by the ever-changing colors, gradations from deep blue to red-orange. Nearing sunrise, the colors seemed to fade to pastel — some tinges of pink. I felt like I was watching Nature’s version of a Mark Rothko painting.
I learned from Will, one of the photographers, that I am missing out by looking solely in the direction of the rising or setting sun. I need to remember to turn around and take in whatever else is illuminated in the golden glow of the low light. He got some beautiful sunset pictures on the east point of the island (whereas I would have been on the west point looking at the setting sun).
“Lights and shades and rare effects on tree-foliage and grass — transparent greens, grays, etc., all in sunset pomp and dazzle. The clear beams are now thrown in many new places, on the quilted, seam’d, bronze-drab, lower tree-trunks, shadow’d except at this hour — now flooding their young and old columnar ruggedness with strong light, unfolding to my sense new amazing features of silent, shaggy charm, the solid bark, the expression of harmless impassiveness, with many a bulge and guard unreck’d before. In the revealings of such light, such exceptional hour, such mood, one does not wonder at the old story fables (indeed, why fables?) of people falling into love-sickness with trees, seized extatic (stet.) with the mystic realism of the resistless silent strength in them — strength, which after all is perhaps the last, completest, highest beauty.”
— Walt Whitman A Little Book of Nature Thoughts, ed. Anne Montgomery Trauble
Jack pine tree tinged red by the morning sun
“I am convinced there are hours of Nature, especially of the atmosphere, mornings and evenings, address’d to the soul.”
— Walt Whitman, A Little Book of Nature Thoughts, ed. Anne Montgomery Trauble