As a kid, growing up in my house, the Saturday morning wake-up call was Dad’s rendition of “America the Beautiful”. Wow. As a teenager, thank you very little. The way it was sung could, literally, raise the dead. Belted out like a screeching alley dog, howling, writhing in pain, off tune, and, all around, terrible on purpose, I would be jolted from precious REM. He would holler continuously, slowly making his way to the windows, draw the curtains, and, in the most succinct tone possible, would say: rise and shine, daylight’s burning.

I survived.

If you haven’t already, you’ll reach the point in your photo creative journey where you understand color can’t be manufactured. Yes, as artists, we can edit photos to taste, but there’s always those specific times of day when the light hits the moon like a big pizza pie. It’s a picture. Light is, no doubt, a camera’s most treasured resource.

For me, getting up early is still the pits, but there’s something that has driven me forward and out of cozy blankets. What has me up and loading gear is that fact that something is out there. Something IS out there that is worth more than what is in here.

It’s a nature scene that I’ve never laid eyes on that makes the journey, however harrowing, worth the trip. The picture that may develop is worth more than the comforts a day at home can afford. Sight unseen, the hope of a reward becomes the motivation. Photographers don’t go out for nothing, we are driven to create. And, lest we go crazy, we must drive there.

Tucked away in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountian range, this particular view of Mount Sopris was not an easy winter morning drive, not an easy wake up call, and, dare I say, not an easy decision. Was it worth it? Well, were all the stressors of the day relieved upon the actuation of the shutter button?


For me, a nature photo that brings fulfillment in my life resides outside the lines of normal. Normal is sleeping in, waiting for the perfect weather, and, coincidently, getting photo lazy. Any serious nature photographer knows that normal doesn’t do the job.

Abnormal means that we believe daylight is burning and something is out there. Rise and shine. This is the faith that a landscape photographer lives by. Not a guarantee of results by any means, but it’s the practice of the process that will grow an artist in any genre.

Strengthened by this attitude of abnormality, we always approach nature with a great expectation of a new revelation. This expectation forms a habit whereby many rewards follow, not because the results manifest themselves, but because photographers know that without diligent preparation there’s no hope.

Rousted from the dread of inconvenience, photo takers everywhere must brave the abnormal in hopes of bringing back the exquisite. When it’s cold, dark, you are weary, and the road seems long, the capture you want is still out there, but it will never be right here. Rise and shine, daylights burning. America is beautiful.

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