Sunrise over the Palouse


Sunrise over the Palouse

Crepuscular rays spill out on the Palouse landscape from a break in the clouds just after sunrise

Even though we had spent sunset the night before on Steptoe Butte, I wanted one more session shooting from there. Since the best times to shoot from the butte are clearly early morning and late afternoon and our hotel was an hour plus away from the butte, that meant we would be going to bed late and getting up super early to make the sunrise. When I say going to bed late and getting up early, let me explain.

Our trip was very close to the summer equinox. Therefore, we were within just a few days of the longest day of the year. Furthermore, we were in a state bordering Canada so the days were even longer than they were in Atlanta. If my memory is accurate, sunset for most of our trip was about 9:20 pm and sunrise was just a few minutes before 5:00 am each day. Given the fact that we would shoot until after twilight ended and would have to drive home we would be hitting the sack at about 11:00 pm. To make it back for sunrise, we would need to wake up at 3:30 am, jump immediately in the car, and drive like crazy to make the sunrise.

We were prepared to do so, but we sort of got a break with the weather the next morning. As it turned out, it was raining when we woke up early the next morning. We pushed back an hour or so and still made it to Steptoe Butte just at sunrise. As you can see in this image, there was a solid cloud layer at the horizon this day. So, there was no glowing orb visible on the horizon. It was close to an hour after sunrise that the cloud cover began to dissipate a bit and we actually had nice light on the landscape.

The negative was that we didn’t have that wonderful soft, angled light illuminating the rolling hills below us. The positive was that we had another burst of crepuscular rays emanating from the rising sun as it shone through the broken cloud layer. I took many images of this effect because it lasted from twenty minutes or so. This one is my favorite. You can see the breadth of the rays virtually from edge to edge of the image. There is enough light to give you a feel of the shades of color present in the farms below. If you look closely in the background you can see snow-covered mountains to the east in Idaho. There are a few structures visible – so few that you can get some feeling for the vastness of the landscape.

We spent another hour or so on top of Steptoe Butte until the light became flat. I’ll post some of those images next. But, our time in the Palouse was coming to an end. I truly hope to return to experience it all over again. Enjoy.




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