Posted by: kerryl29 | January 4, 2021

The Story Behind the Image: The Original Gorge Sunrise

A few weeks ago I posted a “Story Behind the Image” entry centering around a photograph made at Letchworth State Park in western New York.  In response to one of the comments, I made mention of another, earlier formed image of an early morning scene of a fog-filled gorge.  This post details that image and the experience surrounding it.

I spent the better part of a week a number of springs ago exploring the Red River Gorge area of the Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky.  One of the locations I visited–more than once–was the Swift Creek Overlook, perched high on a rocky cliff above the appropriately named Swift Creek.  During my pre-trip pIanning, I had been told by someone who had photographed in the area extensively that, particularly in the transitional times of the year (i.e. spring and fall), early mornings are often fog-filled at this spot, as the comparatively cool air temperatures at daybreak intermingle with the relatively warm water, maxing out the dew point.  “Sometimes thick,” I was told.  In other words, conditions pretty much identical to those I found at the Gorge Overlook at Letchworth should be anticipated.

I scouted the Swift Creek Overlook, just to be sure I could find it, on my first partial day in the area with the intention of returning in the predawn darkness of the following morning, marking the location on my GPS.  There was a parking area (the spot I marked) followed by a very short hike to one of several spots looking out on the gorge.  I took note of the options, investigating each, and settled on one as having the most desirable view.

When I came back the following morning I drove to the appointed spot, which was, unsurprisingly, completely deserted.  The previous day’s scout had been time well spent; I doubt I’d have found the best location to set up in the dark.  I made my way to the overlook and set up.  I could hear Swift Creek flowing far below me, but couldn’t see much of anything as it was so dark.  When the ambient light conditions rose to the point where I could, theoretically, see something I realized that I remained effectively blind.  Looking out into the gorge, all I could see was a band of fog.  I feared that I’d wasted my time.  Some fog is almost always a good thing, but as I’ve said before, the one instance when it’s often not a complement is when a grand view is the main attraction.

Still, I decided to wait things out–not that I had much of a choice at this point.  But after a little while, as it got a bit brighter, I could see that the fog wasn’t quite as opaque as I’d originally thought.  I could make out the shape of some of the trees in the gorge below me, even if the creek itself was only identifiable audibly.  As the sun began to rise closer to the horizon, the sky in the east absolutely lit up in a blaze of red, orange and yellow.  The effect didn’t penetrate very high up in the sky, lingering mostly at horizon level, but where it was visible, the sky seemed to be on fire.  I exposed multiple frames, choosing to express the final product as a blend of images, the result of which you see below.

It remains to this day as one of the more evocative photographs that I’ve made over the years.

Swift Creek Overlook at Sunrise, Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky



  1. Mesmerising!

    • Thanks!

      • Welcome

  2. Absolutely beautiful image, it must have been wonderful to experience in person!

    • Thanks very much!

      And, yes, it was quite a real world experience, aided by being completely alone and hearing almost nothing other than the continuous muffled sounds of Swift Creek’s rushing water far below me.

  3. Nice planning, Kerry! I still want to learn more about meteorology, so I can better anticipate weather phenomena such as fog and clouds.

    Your description of the experience reminds me of desert (e.g., Grand Canyon) sunrises at remote spots with no one else around.

    • Thanks, Steve.

      With ready access to extensive weather forecasting information and real time weather data, you don’t need all that much in the way of meteorological expertise to be ahead of the game these days. But having some wouldn’t hurt. 🙂

  4. Only rarely have I had the opportunity to scout a potential vantage point in advance in a new place, but it is certainly worth the effort. Yours was richly rewarded here. Happy New Year and new vistas, Kerry.

    • Thanks, Gary. A very Happy New Year to you!

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