Early Flight

You Snooze, You Lose

In early August 2020 I got up before 5 a.m. and headed for Kaercher Creek in Hamburg, PA. I had an appointment with the sun that would not allow time for making coffee and the 25-minute trip before the show started, so I checked my gear and got going. The sky was clear (not what you want at dawn) and I worried that the app that had told me there was a good chance for a colorful sunrise had been a bit optimistic. In any case I got to the lake just as the pre-dawn glow provided enough light to see the path that would lead me through a long lush meadow to the dam a quarter mile away. I was the only one there. The air was cool and the water warm from several days of hot weather so steam  rose from the lake and nearby streams and rivers.

The sound of bullfrogs droning and crickets chirping enveloped me and, just to be sure I did not get too lost in contemplation, an occasional horsefly buzzed me. As I walked along through the thicket laden with moisture, I held my arm before me to break through the many invisible spider webs that had been erected the night before.  Several goldfinches were already feeding, flying as they do in a series of dips rather than continuously straight.  In the water, fish were breaking the surface, mostly carp but there were a few thrashing  swirls that could have been muskie, known to reside in the lake.  Turtle heads appeared in the dark water, only to disappear as soon as they saw me.

As I walked through the wet grass to the dam, familiar smells greeted me.  Smells of the forest, of damp vegetation, of flowers and occasional rot.  They brought with them memories of my childhood, growing up in the suburbs of New York City, but happily next to a small forest and winding stream. I got to what I thought was a good spot, set up the tripod and started shooting, trying various exposures and angles.  Every once in a while a loud splash or unfamiliar animal sound would draw my attention,  but you have to remain focused (I couldn't resist) because sunrises have a very finite life and each moment presents a different opportunity. I prefer the pre-dawn to the actual sunrise.  Once the sun creeps just above the horizon it's all over for me and I look for other subjects. 

After a few  more set-ups that yielded nothing dramatic I headed back to the car.  The parking lot was beginning to fill up and boats were lined up at the ramp.  I emerged from the woods, tripod on my shoulder, and said to a kayaker nearby, "Sleep in today?"  He laughed and said in fact he had. I proceeded to my car and turned to get one last look at the mist-columns  swirling just above the surface of the lake.  I silently thanked God to be alive and able to witness His creation once again.  

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