Up and outside before sunrise, and staying out until dark, is a great mantra for nature photographers.  Some mornings it is hard to roll out of bed and get out there.  It it always worth it though.  I cannot remember any morning where I was not happy I got outside before sunrise to photograph.  Hmm… kind like one of the universal things that I know is good for me, like yoga, and yet I often miss out on.  I cannot remember anytime I was sorry for doing a yoga session.

Sunsets are similar, yet less predictable for brilliant lighting.  I am still trying to establish some rules of thumb for predicting if the sunset will be spectacular based on what I see earlier in the afternoon.  Clouds on the western horizon, or on the easter horizon, windy and therefore dust in the air, and the types of clouds seem to be part of a recipe I am still figuring out.

Location seems to be an important factor underlying the colors, and frequency of, spectacular sunrises and sunsets.  New Mexico (“The Land of Enchantment”), the Sierra Nevada (“The Range of Light”), and Alaska (“Land of the Midnight Sun”) are places where I love to photograph the beginning and end of day.  Post your favorite places for sunrises / sunsets below in the comments.

Photographers love to capture images during “The Golden Hour”, a period of time (usually less than a full hour) when the sun’s angle relative to the horizon is between + 6 degrees and – 4 degrees.  This is indeed a great time to be outside and see the long shadows against a golden hue on the landscape.

There are times though when the light is “better” before the sun rises or sets.  During these times I have seen amazingly deep reds, blues, and oranges.  The top image in this post is an example of one of those times.

After a beautiful day photographing hawks and eagles in the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado I set up to photograph the sunset on the Sangre de Cristo mountains.  It turned out to be a “dud”.  Nothing to write home about.  As I was packing up in the dark, getting ready to head home, the sky to the west began to really light up with deep reds.  Wow!  The wind was still, so the reflected sky in the water was crisp. Deep indigo blues from the period known as “The Blue Hour” (sun angle -4 degrees to – 6 degrees elevation) contrasted against the deep reds.  I am glad I turned the other direction and experienced this light show.

These brilliant color moments move fast.  I hope you are able to experience them somedays.  A spectacular sunrise/sunset is a great motivator for the rest of my day/night.

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