I’m no hunter, so I had to use Google to verify that a male elk is a bull and not a buck. Don’t ask me why. All I know is that these guys and a few of their friends hung out near me for a little while after I arrived at the part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park where they were grazing at sunrise.
I bought a new truck a few weeks ago. Well, new to me – I don’t have the money to buy a brand new one, and if I did I still would hate to take that depreciation hit the minute I drive it off the lot, so I always buy cars at least a year old. Anyway, it’s the most fun four-wheeled vehicle I’ve ever owned, and to prove it I took a 950 mile weekend photo jaunt – Thursday and Friday on my own, and Saturday on a roundabout way to pick up my kids from Bible camp.
After roaming all the way to the South Dakota border (and past it by several feet before dipping back into Best Dakota), I rolled into Medora later than I’d hoped. It was at least 10:30 local time, and I didn’t feel like setting up a tent only to take it down a few hours later. My plan was to wake up before sunrise and enter the South Unit of the national park, so the best option seemed to be just sleeping in the truck. I had already folded the back seats down, so I stacked all my gear on one side, inflated my air mattress on the other (I’d reserved a campsite with electricity), plugged in a cheap little fan I’d bought at Walmart in Dickinson to combat the heat and humidity, and dozed off.
Not only am I pleased to report that I slept like a baby in the new ride, but I also woke up before sunrise without the aid of an alarm. I let the air out of the mattress, hopped into the front, and entered the park just in time for the sun to come up. I hiked down to the Little Missouri and got this:
I made the park loop, but nothing really caught my eye – except some elk you’ll see another time – so it was time to head back to the campground for a shower, into town for some bacon and eggs, then off to roam the North and South Units and the National Grasslands in between. I’ve been tied up with multiple gigs lately that have involved 12+ hour days, so I haven’t sorted through them all yet…but I have loads of photos to share as time allows.
It’s been longer than I can remember since I’ve been out to capture a sunrise. It’s about time to start doing that more often, and yesterday was a new beginning for me. I was initially discouraged since the sky was mostly covered with dense clouds, but the horizon held some promise. I stopped for a cappuccino at B&J and headed east. This is what I found developing.
Even though there was a mere sliver of clear sky on the horizon, it was doing its work to difract beautiful red, pink, and orange colors on the clouds above. I set up shop and waited for the drama to start…
Although the purple and red sunrise photo was enough to make my day a success, I hung around a little bit to see what would happen before the sun climbed past the available window. I was not disappointed. The blazing orange sky that resulted was nothing short of breathtaking. The ripple of low clouds between the sun and me became a perfect reflector for the fiery hues.
After a couple of minutes of this, the colors began to wane and I headed back to town satisfied. This was a fantastic way to start getting back into the swing of things. I’m going through my selection of GPS waypoints and other notes to recall suitable foreground objects for sunrise silhouettes, and as the sky cooperates I hope to bring more sunrises home with me.
This is an old police/security vehicle sitting alongside a little gravel road along the interstate highway. While it has a reflective Air Force Security logo sticker on the door, I don’t think that’s original. The car is not directly accessible from there; one has to hit a couple of gravel roads to find it. That’s easily accomplished with a little GPS or Google Earth.
I went ahead and maneuvered closer to the power lines to include them, since I certainly wasn’t in a good position to avoid them. In this case I they actually provide a nice bit of geometry to the shot. While not ideal, they do lead the eye toward the horizon and the rising sun.
Certainly not ideal, but not a total throwaway shot, either. Since I do freelance industrial photography and an advocate for North Dakota’s energy industry, I’m somewhat sympathetic to lines like these anyway. Now, about the photographic subject that had me facing away from the dramatic sunrise…well, that’ll have to wait a day or two.
There’s so much color in the sky around sunrise and sunset, adding a special touch to an otherwise unremarkable scene. Everything takes on such a unique vibrance during that Golden Hour light, and it’s great when that happens with something photogenic nearby…and a great friend to share the experience.