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Christoph Stopka
Westcliffe, Colorado USA
07:21 am

Equipment Details:

Nikon D 850 w/Sigma Art lens 24-70mm, B + W Polarizer

Post-processing Details:

Minimal adjustments (converting from RAW) in Lightroom

Image Details:

What a special morning with one of the most unusual sunrises I have ever experienced: After it snowed the entire night, we woke up to a perfect winter wonderland including pretty cold temperatures with the thermometer showing only 10 degrees Fahrenheit. A few frozen ice particles were still floating like glitter through the frigid air and it looked like we going to have a hazy sunrise. Then - it actually came up very fast - an incredible beam of light started emerging from the area behind the Wet Mountain Range where the sun would be appearing in a few minutes. This beam got brighter and brighter, changed from pale yellow to a warm orange, and kept on growing thousands of feet straight up into the morning sky. As if somebody had switched on a gigantic flashlight or searchlight. I got my camera out and started shooting, when suddenly a good-sized bird showed up and actually started flying some acrobatics (looping etc) in my field of vision. I don't know if it was the bird's reaction to the bizarre sunrise with the huge beam slicing through the sky, but I kept clicking away, since you never know what you might get.
The entire spectacle lasted about 10 minutes and the beam vanished immediately when the sunlight came flooding over the ridge of the Wet Mountains. I went back inside the house and checked my photos, and I saw that in one of the images the bird (I think it was a "Clark's Nutcracker") was perfectly lined up inside the beam. In fact, it is not called a beam - the correct term for the phenomenon as I found out is "Sun Pillar" and this rare sight is created by ice particles in very cold air. No doubt, one of the most unforgettable sunrises I have ever experienced.