Photographers spend a lot of time waiting for the sun to rise. The so-called “magic hour,” when light can range from good to awe-inspiring, is often considered to be 1/2 hour before and a 1/2 hour after sunset. On a frigid November morning I decide to chase the light, and in the process try to catch a glimpse of a comet. I position myself on a limestone slab overlooking Lake Winnebago in the city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Ice covers the bay behind me, and looking to the east across the rest of the lake, ice mostly covers the rocky shore. I mount my camera on the tripod, ready for shooting. As I walked to the point earlier a pair of duck hunters arrived, and similarly set up for a morning’s shooting. As I sit on my rock with the wind to my back I look out over the lake. Here and there are small flocks of ducks, some calling back and forth an hour before the sun’s appearance. I predict the duck hunters will have luck.
By accident I happen to look the way of the duck hunters and watch two ducks tumble from the sky, a moment later I hear two shots. I saw the birds too briefly to identify them, but their small silhouettes against the slow brightening sky tell me they were not the mallards I heard calling earlier. I check my phone for the time; about one minute after the hunting hours begin, lucky. As the sky changes I too have a bit of luck, there was no spectacular light this morning, but it is satisfying to watch the stars fade, and the sun rise.
Although still below the horizon I can see where the sun is and closely guess where it will rise. I point my camera at the spot I expect it to rise and where I think it will cross the frame and hit record. The camera does its work recording sunrise an event that has never ended. The sun is always rising somewhere on the Earth for billions of years. But on my rock the sun only rises this day for perhaps an hour, and I only capture a few minutes of its brief appearance advancing over the Wisconsin horizon.
I pick up my equipment and discover frost had begun to spread over my backpack, tripod, and my lens barrel. I check the glass, but it was fine. As I pack up my gear the nearby duck hunters are doing the same. They are wading in the lake breaking the ice around their decoys. I suppose the sight of ducks frozen in ice is unappealing to other ducks. I head back for the car with some photos to upload on the computer and later the duck hunters will return to their house with something for dinner. I’m not sure who is crazier this morning.
Video taken with a Sony a65 SLT and Sigma 150-500mm f5-6.3 APO HSM lens mounted on a Bogen/Manfrotto tripod and head.
A version of the preceding was posted on my nature blog