Alpenglow

In 1719 the Spanish explorer Antonio Valverde y Cosio named the Sangre de Cristo (“Blood of Christ”) mountains after being impressed by the reddish hue of the snowy peaks at sunrise.“, according to Wikipedia.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Alpenglow

The beautiful red glow in the morning on these mountains is from an optical effect called Alpenglow that appears as a reddish glow on the horizon just before sunrise. The glow emanating from the solar disk appears as a band of colored light across the sky or mountains reflected by ice crystals or precipitation at these high elevations. I’ve seen the red glow countless times since having moved to Cripple Creek but have never quite found the right time to get out and photograph them. Yesterday I noticed that the effect was most pronounced at exactly 7:20 a.m., so today I awoke at 5:00 to prepare.

Sangre de Cristo Alpenglow

I figured it would take us about a half hour to get down the trail to a point where I have an unobstructed view of the entire range. It was clear and cold this morning as we strode through the darkness, a perfect morning to photograph the Alpenglow effect. As we neared the overlook I was able to barely make out the snow capped peaks through the darkness, with no sign of the anticipated red glow in sight. A few minutes later however, I noticed that there was a band of color forming across the predawn sky, which I surmised was the expected glow from the sun’s curvature still hiding below the horizon.

We arrived at the overlook at about 7:00 as the glowing red band was moving down towards the mountain peaks. Then at 7:15 just as I had planned, the red glow from the rising sun descended upon the rugged range. It was still quite dark however and I was concerned that I was not going to have sufficient light to create usable photographs, but I proceeded with my shooting plan anyway. I chose ISO 200 so as not to get too much digital noise in the images and some I shot on auto for a higher shutter speed while others were shot in Av mode with aperture f8 in hopes of getting some depth of field. Now that I am looking at the images, it appears I was successful and have a good collection of usable captures.

By 7:30 a.m. it was all over, the pink was gone and the beautiful mountains shown in the bright morning sunlight. I hadn’t noticed while shooting, but by this time I was pretty darn cold! My fingers were tingling even with glove liners on and my shoulders and back were aching from the bone chilling cold. So me and the big dog decided to pack it in and make the trek homeward, hoping to see a few of the deer or elk that had left so much evidence in the sand the night before. No luck there, but now back in the warmth of my home I feel privileged to have stood in the presence of the mountains named for the blood of my Savior.

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6 thoughts on “Alpenglow

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