Cerro Pedernal Sunrise in Clearing Storm

Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

Cerro Pedernal Sunrise in Clearing Storm

Cerro Pedernal stands tall over clouds and fog at sunrise while a wet spring storm clears out.

Cerro Pedernal Sunrise in Clearing Storm

A good rule of thumb is photographing when the weather is bad.  It is during the storms, and especially after storms dissipate that the light is dramatic.

The Story

Confidence is needed to follow this rule and head out during poor weather.  This was definitely the case early this morning before the sun rose, to drive through wet snow and rain with plans to photograph the Ghost Ranch area at sunrise.

This time it worked out nicely as I stood with a friend in the cold and damp darkness prophesizing how the light should be good when the sun rose.  He did not seem to be convinced but thankfully was a good sport at bearing the elements.

As dawn approached, patches of ground fog and low clouds became visible.  This meant we were not standing in a solid soup of clouds.   The first rays of sunlight lit the summit of Cerro Pedernal above the darkness below.  Fortunately, some low-angle rays of sunlight retained their warm colors bathing the clouds and cliffs with pink light.

The Science

When the Sun’s rays travel a long way through clear and dry air the bluish colors (cooler colors) are scattered out of the light beam, leaving warmer colors (reds, oranges, and pinks).  If clouds block the light rays on the horizon where the sun is rising (or setting) the sunrise (sunset) colors disappear, or become severely muted to gray.

With no clouds on the horizon, direct and warm-colored light rays can illuminate the underside of clouds, which we see as colorful sky colors around sunrise and sunset.

On this stormy morning, thick clouds to the east blocked the majority of direct rays of sunlight.  Because the storm was clearing out there were some “holes” in the cloud layers that allowed warm light to illuminate Pedernal and the highest layers of clouds and fog.  The result was a soft pink accent to the landscape.

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“Cerro Pedernal Sunrise in Clearing Storm”   (c) Ed MacKerrow / In Light of Nature.  (  20210504__D3_5748_AU )