The Story Behind the Shot: A Sunrise with the Stars

Posted on November 4, 2014

If you saw my last “Story Behind the Shot,” you may have noticed it was also taken in Nepal. This shot was taken on my first trip there in 2009 – five years before the rhinoceros shot.

I was three days into a short five-day trek in the Annapurna Range of Nepal. The highlight of this micro trek was the sunrise at a place known as Poon Hill. This viewpoint sits at 10,531ft (3210m) above sea level. Most people spend the preceding night in a small village called Ghorepani (pronounced: gore-eh-panee). This literally translates to “horse water.” Ghorepani got its name because it was a rest stop for ancient traders who knew there would be reliable water for their horses. This small town sits at 9429ft (2874m) leaving us with slightly over 1000ft (304m) to arduously ascend in one mile (1.6km) before sunrise.

At the time I was traveling with a friend from Germany who had been to Nepal many times before. Accompanying us was a guide and now friend of mine named Achyut, who brought a friend of his to act as porter for us. It had been a cold night with little sleep when Achyut came to rouse us at 4am from our uneasy slumber. We quickly packed our sleeping bags, threw on our layers and readied our backpacks to leave. After a quick cup of tea we headed for our sunrise spot.

To make the sunrise we kept a brisk pace. Although the porter was carrying most of my backpacking gear, I still had about 30lbs (14kg) of camera toys on me. Combine lugging the toys and hiking with two Nepalese people who are far more accustomed at 10,000ft than me and you have one winded and tired Brian! No matter where I am when I am hiking under extreme weight or difficult conditions, I enter an almost meditative state. I must of fell into one of these because the next thing I knew I was on a mountain top with about 100 other people awaiting the sunrise with the grandeur of the Annapurna Range confronting me head on. This is a very picturesque mountain range with peaks topping out at 26,545ft (8091m). This photograph is of the highest mountain in the range – Annapurna I. Depending on who you ask, this mountain and K2 in Pakistan battle it out for the deadliest mountain in the world, much more dangerous to summit than Everest.

We arrived early enough to start shooting before the actual sunrise. I love to shoot then because the subtle colors in the sky aren’t so dramatically overwhelmed by the direct sun on the subjects (a time known as blue hour). In this case a result I’ve never seen nor would have anticipated occurred. Because of the altitude, the sunrise that was still twenty minutes or so away, was projecting warm light on the mountain and clouds without overwhelming the normally faint stars behind it. Still to this date I have not taken or seen another photograph where this occurs.

During sunrise I continued to snap away and fill the role of, “you have a tripod and must be a pro, can you take our picture?” person. After getting our own standard tourist in front of an amazing place picture, we started our two day descent back to civilization.


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