Purple Sky at Cottonwood Pass (Paul D. deBerjeois- September 11, 2004)
My plan for Saturday, September 11, 2004 was pretty straightforward.
The leaves were beginning to turn for the season, so I wanted to spend as much
of the morning as possible photographing Aspen as possible. The target area
was Cottonwood Lake and the dirt road that heads west from there.
I wondered if the small tundral pool on the west side of Cottonwood Pass
would offer an opportunity to catch a reflection around sunrise. Only if
the winds were dead calm would there be any chance of that.
I spent the preceding Friday night and early Saturday morning in my Jeep at
one of the pullouts on the upper part of Cottonwood Pass Road. When I woke
up at about 4:30am, there didn't appear to be much wind. The drive to the
Pass was short, and by 5:00am I was about three hundred feet into the trail
up the hill just south of the Pass.
After taking some long-exposure photos of the eastern mountains silhouetted
below a faint pre-dawn glow, I scrambled back down to the pool and
positioned myself facing west with the pool before me. Although alpenglow
is a phenomenon associated with sunsets, the sky above me began to take on a
pink cast similar to alpenglow.
I began shooting reflections of the western view as the sky continued to
lighten. My exposure lengths were still pretty long - 10 seconds, 8
seconds, 5 seconds - but shortened as the sun approached the horizon. These
long exposures allowed me to capture the appearance of an oversaturated pink
and purple predawn sky.
There was something magical about the sky that morning that I didn't realize
until returning several times in 2005. I've been able to capture a similar
over-saturating effect with long predawn exposures. But the pink and purple
tones tend to hover just over the western horizon. The sky directly
overhead (and the reflection of that sky) haven't graced me with the same
degree of saturation since. In hundreds of other sunrise/reflection photos
I've taken, I have yet to reproduce the effect I saw that lovely morning in
This photo and essay was submitted by Paul D. deBerjeois in Colorado Springs. His web site is www.ColorBandit.com.