Before Sunrise and After Sunset

It should come us no surprise that I enjoy early mornings. I can’t say it was always this, way, and there was certainly a time when I had to drag myself out of bed if I was the least bit tired, or worse, if I’d been artificially awoken by an alarm clock. Just the thought of getting up before the sun, was so foreign, that it never crossed my mind.

My earliest recollections of dawn are tangled up with camping trips. With nothing but a thin film of Egyptian cotton, later to be substituted by high-tech nylons, between the eyelids and the early morning glow of a sunrise, it didn’t take much for the internal clock to spring to life, earlier than typically accustomed to. The rapid tapping from a Sap-sucker drilling for breakfast or the haunting melody of a White-throated Sparrow, serving as a subtle reminder that it’s the early bird that catches the worm.

From an artistic point of view, every photographer who takes their art seriously, knows that the quality of light at either end of the day adds more character to a photograph, than the harsh overhead mid day sun. That’s not to say that high-noon doesn’t have its place too, it’s just different. With a clear sky, natural light at day-break, and in the waning hours, will typically be warmer in colour, that is to say, yellow or golden. Where as the mid day sun, is more neutral, leaning toward blue, or colder.

But enough with all the technical stuff, I’m more interested in the emotional stirrings. There’s an unquestionable freshness, regardless of the season, that greets the first rays of daylight. A peaceful stillness and silence anticipates the hopefulness of each new day. The night creatures are settling in to their daytime refuges, while songbirds begin their preening ritual.

I hold an especially fond recollection of rising early on countless Saturday mornings, in my early twenties, to participate in a unique experience. A group of friends would congregate at the foot of the Leslie Street Spit, on the shores of Lake Ontario, in Toronto, for our springtime ritual of banding songbirds, under the guidance of Peter from the Metro Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. On occasion we would catch a tiny Saw-whet Owl or a Blue Jay, but for the most part, it was the smaller Warblers, Sparrows and Finches that would fly into our mist nets.

There is definitely something romantic about daybreak. Before Sunrise is the name of a movie that follows a young couple on a long conversation through a street lit night in Paris, and I can’t think of anything more romantic than that. One may debate if the romance was under the cover of night or in the anticipation of the day’s first light, but either way, the experience would not have been the same, had it not been for sharing it with a kindred spirit. Carpe Diem!

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