Hazel Mountain Overlook
Before the van rolled to a stop, I rocketed out the door, grabbed my gear and sprinted toward the rocks. I’d miscalculated our travel time to the overlook. There could be no greater sin for a landscape photographer. You just don’t miss sunrises.
The entire drive from our cabin to the park I’d fidgeted, mentally kicking myself as I watched the first faint bands of pink color the sky above the mountains. As we wound up the twisty, turning road to the park that morning, I realized we were so close yet so far. My barnburner sunrise might just happen without me.
My husband and I traveled to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia for a long weekend. The goal: capture as many sunrise shots as possible. Day One wasn’t going so well.
I usually get to a location before sunrise to capture the period just before the sun peaks over the horizon. It produces beautiful, colorful light. This day I definitely missed the Belt of Venus, as that light is known, but I had just enough time to set up my tripod before the sun actually rose.
Thankfully I’d scouted the Hazel Mountain Overlook the day before. I had composed a photo in my mind that I hoped to capture the next morning. I knew where the sun would shine its first rays of the morning. The mountains layered one upon the other from this vantage point. And the cool rock formations at the overlook perfectly framed those mountain peaks.
On this crisp winter morning, I was alone. That was good. No one but my husband and our dog saw my pell mell rush from the van that morning. The pair decided to keep warm in the van, occasionally checking to make sure I hadn’t fallen off the cliff in my photo quest.
I didn’t have to wait long for the show to start. That morning’s stress washed away as ribbons of color danced above the purple mountaintops. A little magenta here, a bit of orange there. The show just kept getting better and better. In fact, I didn’t even mind freezing as I bracketed the shot. (That’s a bold statement for me. I hate being cold.)
A few hearty birds joined me at the rocks. They sat facing the rising sun, twittering amongst themselves. Besides the birds, the only sound I heard was the wind gently blowing across the mountaintops. Perfect.
I continued shooting for about 40 minutes. The pictures looked pretty good plus this slice of nature helped me unwind. So maybe I redeemed myself. I didn’t miss that glorious sunrise after all.
Bonus: I now knew exactly how long it took to reach the mountaintop from our cabin in the valley.