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  • Writer's picturePayton Pan

Night & Morning Photography

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

I love taking pictures. But I especially love taking pictures at obscure times of the day and night. It’s really a shame because sleep almost always gets overlooked if there is a shot to be taken, whether it be the midnight moon or the crack of dawn. These pictures are undeniably worth the lost sleep in my eyes, or more appropriately, in my shutter, because it can be so much more fun to play with the lighting and location during these ungodly hours, especially for long exposure shots.

This can be seen in my freshly featured ‘Summer’ collection, which was shot mainly on location in Ocean City, Maryland. Photography is always great at the beach, whether you want moving water, sunrises, sunsets, vast landscapes, or even plenty of people. However, that was exactly my issue. I don’t particularly enjoy depicting random strangers in my collections, especially in photos focused on nature. And Ocean City in July is not quite the place to go to avoid the crowds. So, I took my photos when the beach was clear, or at least almost clear, with the exception of a few fisherman and partiers. Taking pictures of the moon rise over the water at 11:00 that night, and then the sun rise over the water at 5:30 the next morning wasn’t exactly my intended sleep schedule; But if you don’t think it was worth it then check out the ‘Passing Waves’ photo from that morning.

"Passing Waves" Ocean City, MD

There have been plenty different scenarios when I've found myself up at even crazier times with a camera in my hand and a tripod on my back. If you haven’t already, take a glance at my ‘Utah’ collection, and you can probably guess where I’m going with this. On a road trip through the state, I stopped at Dead Horse Point State Park, and got to a well known outlook by around 8:30 to see the sunset (the same sunset that was immortalized in ‘Cowboy Church’). Around an hour later, the vast canyons noted my departure, but I would see them again in four hours. I returned to the same spot just before 2:00, to capture the world renowned milky way view at a spot I had scouted out during my earlier visit. It wasn’t too close to the cliff’s edge to permit the chance of a fall to my death in the darkness; and it wasn’t in sight of any other people, cars, or structures; but it was overlooking the view of the most beautiful stars I have ever seen in my life. And so ‘Night’ was born.

"Cowboy Church" and "Night" Dead Horse Point, Utah

After the starry night had been captured (and believe me it took a while), I attempted to finish whatever sleep that night had in store for me. The hammock I was sleeping in prevented that from being much at all. But compared to another shot, the sleepless nature of 'Night,' proved to be no trouble at all. See, when I went to shoot photos of the stars, I drove to the outlook, and there were others with me. This wasn't quite the case the next night. A day on in the road trip, I stopped at Singletree campground outside of Capitol Reef National Park. Upon arrival in the afternoon, our legs were in need of a good stretch, so we set out to find a good hike. Sure enough, the small stream that ran through the site led to a trail on the edge of the campground. Following this trail down the steep ravine to a waterfall was easy and enjoyable, and I even went under the rush of the water to cool off from the hot sun. But when I tried this hike without the hot sun, it was a few levels up in difficulty.

I wanted to get a shot of the sunrise across the mountain, because I had seen the sun set in the opposite direction of that trail before getting some shut eye in my hammock that night. So when my alarm sounded at 4:30 the next morning, I put on my boots, grabbed my camera pack, and shoved a fruit snack in my back pocket. It wasn't long before I realized that the boundless darkness made this a harder hike than I had planned for. In fact, it was before the hike. I couldn't find the trail with my phone flashlight, so I decided to follow the river, which I knew from the day before went alongside the trail. If I followed the river, I would find the trail. Although that reasoning made sense, that is not at all what happened. I was unknowingly on the wrong side of the river, so you could imagine my surprise when I reached a barbed-wire fence that I had not encountered the day before. I had not slept well enough to think through this situation logically, so I rolled under the fence and began my descent alone into the darkness (without a trail). Halfway down, I intersected the trail, and my troubles started giving way to a very successful endeavor. At this moment, the predawn light began making its way around the Earth to meet me and illuminate my surroundings. After getting my bearings straight, I decided to leave the trail once more to head up the adjacent mountain. After 200 yards I stopped and turned around, met with the view. The perfect view. There was no place in the world at that moment with a better view than where I was standing. And I was the only one who got to see it. I was VIP to the art show God put on every morning. But as a mule deer stared at me from behind a shrub 30 feet to my right, I realized this morning was unlike any other morning. I will never look at a sunrise the same way in my life. I knew that pictures could not do it justice, but not to try would be to insult Mother Earth. As I was met with the 'Aurora of Daybreak.'

"Rise" (en route to the veiw) and "Aurora of Daybreak" (sunrise of a lifetime)

Taken in the Utah wilderness...

{click on right of image to advance to 2nd photo}

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