Cottonwood Pass

Purple Sky at Cottonwood Pass (Paul D. deBerjeois- September 11, 2004)

Purple Sky at Cottonwood PassMy 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 September. -Paul

This photo and essay was submitted by Paul D. deBerjeois in Colorado Springs. His web site is


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