Midwestern Wanderlog

366 Sunrises

Ever have one of those ideas?  The ones that don’t involve adult beverages and don’t end in trips to the local ER, I mean.

I know you know the ones I’m talking about – those notions that occur like a bolt from the blue, catching your fancy and firing your imagination, your desire, however impractical they might seem.

Barn Bluff trial run figure pic


This is me.  I’m middle-aged in body, young in mind – 42 years of age as of my 2015 birthday, but inside my head, I’ve never aged past 18, so aches in the joints are really surprising, not to mention offensive.  As the years have passed and pounds have been added, I’ve gotten to the point where I feel a bit dumpy. Or maybe ‘frumpy’ is more the word.  Either way. I’m in that state where I’d really like to be fit and lean, flat-stomached with muscle definition, but exercise and restricting my diet seem like an awful lot of trouble to go to in order to get it.



Library shelvesDesk area of officeThis is my library/home office. I’ve lived most of my life inside the books on these shelves; befriending the main characters, writing myself into the story, becoming a hero in those worlds. Because I’ve never done anything significant in this one.

But, back to The Great Idea!  I’d been studying photography with some seriousness for a little over a year, but had no real photography project that I was working on.  Lots of random photos, very little focus, if you know what I mean.  Gradually it occurred to me that the photos I most admire on Capture Minnesota are the sunrises and sunsets (particularly the ones involving water and reflections) and I was wondering why the shots I would set up never looked quite like that – that perfect, heart-catching blend of composition, lighting, and timing.  Studying a bit further, I concluded that the photographers who took those shots weren’t randomly in the right place at the right time; they’d scouted their spot carefully, and then planned their outing so that they would be where they needed to be, when they needed to be there, no guesswork or luck needed.


About that same time, I saw this photograph on Facebook. ‬iPad download 2015-01-30 147 It’s a composite of pictures taken at the same time from the same spot on various days throughout the year.  The sun makes an infinity symbol across the sky – how cool is that?!?  And I decided I wanted to do something like it.


Then I happened to think of Barn Bluff.

Rolling thunderstorm

Oncoming storm – downtown Red Wing, taken from Memorial Park

Oh – a little bit of background.  This is Red Wing – well, part of it.  It’s a port city in southern Minnesota along the Mississippi River.  Gets lots of barge traffic, the railroad runs right through town… okay, alongside of town.  Be kind of inconvenient to have the tracks running down the center!  Like the song Dad used to sing, “Oh the railroad runs through the middle of the house, the railroad runs through the middle of the house, the railroad runs through the middle of the house, since the company bought the land.  Oh they let us live in the front of the house, and they let us live in the back.  But there’s no more living in the middle of the house, ’cause that’s the railroad track!”

Anyway.  Red Wing has a population of approximately sixteen and a half thousand; it’s also the home of Red Wing Shoe, Ridell Skate (both ice- and roller-), and the Historic St. James Hotel (I’m told that the Mississippi actually runs through the basement of the hotel, but I can’t verify that personally).  And since Red Wing is in bluff country, it has a couple of really cool vantage points, like Memorial Park and Barn Bluff.

This is Barn Bluff.

And I’ve learned it is actually barn bluff, not Barn’s with an ‘s’ as if it belonged to somebody named Barn.  The French named it La Grange back in the 1800s, which means ‘barn’ in French and was used to refer to rock formations that are tall, long and level.  Who knew?

It measures 1001 feet above sea level and to get to the top you have to climb 343 feet almost straight upward.  Fortunately, there are stairs in two different places to help you up the steepest bits!

But I digress.  The idea that hit me like a bolt from the blue was this:  Take pictures of the sunrise from the eastern face of Barn Bluff every day for a year.  I’d have the movement of the sun on the horizon, I’d collect some amazing shots of the bend in the Mississippi River, with the colors above reflecting on the water below, I’d learn firsthand what settings work well for sunrises and which don’t… and while I was at it, why not share what I learned, about camera settings and preparation and the pitfalls of sunrises and getting up early?

So here’s the journey, shared for all to see; the work, the grind, the education, and at the end – the victory.

(Oh, by-the-by for those who noticed the title of this page – yes, I know there are only 365 days in a year, and therefore only 365 sunrises… except when the year includes a 29th of February.)

 Take 1 – The Great Idea!  Take 2 – Let’s try this again…  Take 3 – I really mean it this time!
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