Sometimes all the planning in the world won’t get you a perfect result. (Actually, most of the time, that’s the case. But planning still helps!) And yet, even an imperfect result can still be perfect – if you see it that way.
It’d been months since I’d prepped for a formal project. I was running around the house, chasing down the cable release (in the pocket of my jacket), making sure the tripod was next to the camera bag, changing the battery that was almost discharged for the next on in the rotation, gathering my cold-weather gear all in one place. And sleeping was a difficult task; projects are exciting!
The half moon was high this morning, offering faint light to the road; Venus was shining bright and clear partway between horizon and moon. There were no clouds, which can actually make for a vivid sunrise, though perhaps not a colorful one. (On the other hand, since it was still before first light, it was entirely possible clouds would move in before sunrise.)
The last time I’d been to Barn Bluff was the blood moon eclipse; moving through Red Wing, searching out the directional signs obsessively, I wondered if I was going to miss the turning. Found the way to start of the trail without any problems, though!
The first part of the trail was chilly. Proper prepping for the weather in southern Minnesota means being ready for both temperature and wind, regardless of what the weather reports say conditions are supposed to be; boots, two pairs of socks, long underwear on both top and bottom, plus the usual jeans, sweater, jacket, hat, and gloves. And the foresight to grab a full facemask… just in case. (One of the reversible ones, camouflage on one side, and blaze orange on the other.)
With a slight breeze biting at my face, making the left eye tear up, the facemask was donned before I’d even reached the first major hill. And I felt grateful for the long-term habits that had caused me to go back for it. Then I realized the first of my oversights of the day; no ice cleats. The packed snow wasn’t bad by any means, but that section of hill above the stairs is steep. Going up both hills I had to plant each foot very carefully, and then test my boot’s grip before putting my full weight on it. And coming back down? Shuddery nerves the whole way, hoping that if I did fall, my backpack would snugly protect my camera with its cushioned sides. The good part of forgetting the ice cleats? Being able to walk that hill so slowly and carefully I wasn’t winded by the time I got to the top!
The second oversight wasn’t apparent until the eastern overlook. At that point, the breeze was hitting my back unobstructed. A back that was no longer protected by the camera bag. A back that was slightly sweaty with the exertion of climbing the hill and somewhat damp shirt above jeans that were now absorbing the cold but not blocking the wind.
Underdressed for the weather in spite of experience and precautions.
On the other hand… I might have been a bit uncomfortable, but I didn’t get frostbitten. I remember my water – learned that last year! – though it was cold enough to start developing ice in the bottle just in the short time the bottle was exposed. (Makes for careful drinking, with those slivers floating around.) Didn’t forget the tripod, the camera, or the cable release.
And I was fifteen minutes early for the sunrise. Today looked to be an orange one; walking up the lower trail, there were no clouds to speak of in sight. But once up top, with the camera set up and the sun creeping inexorably across the world toward Red Wing, small puffy pink clouds appeared. They were even reflecting off the river, in the places where the water wasn’t yet iced over.
And, bonus – there were still a few minutes to go when I happened to glance over my shoulder at the pink haze above the waking city of Red Wing, when I noticed I wasn’t the only one up to greet the first sun of the year! And so I had company, a friendly gentleman named David, who’s a member of Friends of the Bluff as well as a hiker, and had decided to climb all three local bluffs on this fine, if chilly, morning.
So we chatted, and greeted the sun together. I played with the aperture and shutter speed, and took side-by-side photos to make into a panoramic – one of the ideas I’d had was to make one per day with photos that span the range the sun moves across the horizon and then make the time lapse video with those.
All in all, a perfect start to the year.