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Sunrise from Mt. Blue Sky

Sunrise from Mt. Blue Sky, Mt. Blue Sky Wilderness, Colorado

Sunrise from Mt. Blue Sky, Mt. Blue Sky Wilderness, Colorado

Shooting sunrise from the summit of all 54 Fourteeners is an enormous project. It's also a project that poses some tricky questions. At what point should I consider a peak "done"? After taking a picture from the summit? Hundreds of thousands of pictures are taken from the summit of Fourteeners every year. That surely wasn't a worthy goal. After shooting sunrise from the summit? What if I got skunked? Did I have to go back again and again until I got a "good" picture? What about the pairs of peaks which are easily done in a single day, such as Grays and Torreys, Belford and Oxford, and Sunshine and Redcloud? Could I do two in a day and call them "done"? And finally, what about the two Fourteeners with roads to the summit, Pikes Peak and Mt. Blue Sky (formerly Mt. Evans)?

Ultimately I decided to define the project this way: I would consider a peak "done" if I had been standing on the summit at either sunrise or sunset. The best photo might be taken before or after the almanac time of sunrise or sunset, but I needed to be standing on the summit at the moment the sun rose or set. That meant that I couldn't do two peaks in a day. Grays and Torreys and the other pairs of peaks would have to be done in two separate shoots. But I also decided that I would start my climb where the road stopped. On some peaks, that meant parking at 9,000 feet. For two of them, Pikes and Blue Sky, that meant driving to the summit.

I decided to shoot sunrise from Mt. Blue Sky on the day in June when the full moon would be setting near the western horizon just as the sun rose over the eastern one. Driving to the summit certainly eliminated the arduous task of hauling all that camera gear up the mountain, but didn't give me a whole lot more sleep ‒ I still had to get up at 2 am. But at least I did get to sleep for a few hours in my own bed in my home in Boulder.

I arrived on the summit a full hour before sunrise, since I knew that the glow to the east often peaked 30 minutes before the sun crested the horizon. By great good fortune, the sky was filled with clouds which all lit up at sunrise. Meanwhile, the moon played hide-and-seek with the clouds to the west. I made a number of satisfying images that morning, but the one above is my favorite.

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