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You Can't Give Up

What a difference a day makes.

Our trip had been a year in the planning: Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Monument Valley.

Unfortunately, there ended up being very few days where the skies were not completely, totally overcast. Oh, we got some good skies at times, for sure, but not like we'd hoped. Still we worked with it, and got quite a few good shots.

But by our last day before returning home, we'd hit so much overcast that we had decided that for that last day, we'd sleep in. We'd been up early (not before sunrise -- overcast weather makes that effort useless), but early enough every single day for the entire trip. We figured we deserved one morning worth of sleeping late.

But on this morning, Mother Nature had other ideas.

As I got out of bed to answer Her call, I saw some light peeking in through the curtains.

When we're at Monument Valley, we stay at Gouldings. Not as fancy as some places, but still pretty good. The restaurant is okay, and they make a killer French Toast for breakfast.

We were in the one of their apartments, which put us on the second floor, with a balcony outside the bedroom. From that you could see Monument Valley, almost 5½ miles away, as the crow flies.

Ignoring Mother Nature's call, I peeked out the window, and was greeted by crystal clear skies.

Ugh. No, I'm never satisfied. While clear blue is, to me, better than completely overcast for landscapes, a few scattered, puffy clouds is ideal. But this was clear. Not a cloud to be seen.

What I did see was the spectacular sunrise I tried to capture in the image above.

Of course, the cameras were at hand (well, they were in the living room portion of the apartment), but the tripod was down in the truck. I knew that if I took the time to go get it, I'd lose the light, and the shot.

So I took the camera out on this second floor balcony, and rested it on the balcony rail. (Note to self: get another ball head, and mount it to a Super Clamp. Put said rig in the camera bag.)

With the camera firmly planted on the railing I started firing off shots. I did have to crank the ISO up a bit, to ISO 800, but the Nikon D810 can more than handle that. That allowed me to shoot at 1/400 sec @ f/8, EV -0.3. True, I probably could have shot hand held at that shutter speed, and I probably could have opened up the aperture a bit, to get more shutter speed or lower ISO, but I wasn't taking any chances. This wasn't happening again, at least not today, so I had to make sure I got the shot. That meant not hand holding, and using the settings I used.

I was using my 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor zoom, which I really think is one of the sharpest lenses I've ever shot with. I finally settled on 70mm.

I was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise silhouette. Needless to say, sleeping in did not happen. We got up, grabbed some of Goulding's fabulous French Toast (it really is quite good), and hit the road in search of more photos.

The following morning, the day we were heading for home, things were back to same-old-same-old. Overcast.

But as luck would have it, we were up early as it's our habit to hit the road pretty early.

This time it was my wife who peeked out the window. In an instant I heard, "Grab your camera and come here."

I learned along time ago that "Grab your camera and come here" means "Grab your camera and come here." So I grab my camera and do as I'm told.

Out on the balcony, I was again greeted by a magnificent sunrise, albeit a bit different.

As I said, this day was going to be overcast, but in the east, the cloud cover ended just below the tops of the monuments, and just above the actual horizon. And the golden glow was gorgeous. Repeat yesterday's shoot -- camera resting on the railing, 1/400 sec @ f/8, EV -0.3, ISO 800.

Another pretty decent sunrise shot.

So the lessons? Get out of bed, look out the window, and grab the camera.

Every day. You never know what you'll see.

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