nature and wildlife photography by Joseph Classen

Alaska Sunrises and Sunsets Gallery

It happens every morning. And, in the evening, the process reverses itself wonderfully. From an abyss of blackness, a slight glow emerges on the horizon. As the glow intensifies, the silhouettes of clouds appear and slowly become back-lit in the expanding light. Shades of primary colors begin to gently brew and blend in the eastern atmosphere. Meanwhile, subtly, the landscape below begins to take shape in the ever-growing illumination of the dawning day. Outlines and evolving distinctions lethargically develop out of the darkness. As the horizon continues to brighten, the surrounding skies begin to absorb the light and reflect it down upon the land, giving it greater clarity and definition with every passing moment.

While the clouds on the horizon remain silhouetted and dark, the atmosphere behind them becomes increasingly brighter. In the east, an epicenter of intense color begins to exert dominance in the sky. A fire slowly burns and impregnates the surrounding clouds with hues of orange and red. A soft pink and yellow glow begins to overtake the horizon and gently evolves into a vastness that blankets the heavens. As the pink and yellow light transforms into red and orange, the outline of surrounding mountains begin to separate themselves from the clouds along the skyline. Meanwhile, the still waters below reflect a mirror image of what is above, creating a perfect, earthly harmony.

As the clarity, exposure, and saturation of natural light and color are increased with every second of passing time, the grand finale of earthly awaking rather suddenly reaches a climax and erupts from the stoic stillness of the morning prelude. From the burning eastern epicenter on the horizon, the sun begins to take a peek upon the land. As it fully reveals itself and rises above all of creation, the back-lit clouds become a soft blue, and all the colors of the morning masterpiece explode into magnificence and give birth to the new life of day. Yes, indeed, every Alaska sunrise (and sunset) is an original work of art, which will never be duplicated exactly the same way every again.

Photographing the splendor of Alaska sunrises and sunsets is always a bit of a gamble. One never knows what kind of performance the Divine Artist will give on any particular day. Sometimes the sky explodes with the most incredible colors and cloud formations when one least expects it. And, on other occasions, where the weather conditions are ideal, and one is expecting a fantastic sunrise or sunset performance…it turns out to be a dud. This is especially disheartening when one has gotten up at 3:30 AM, (the sun rises early during Alaska summers!) has driven for hours, or hiked for miles in the dark, only to have the atmospheric artist not paint such a vivid picture that day. Again, it’s always a gamble…but it’s a risk I’m usually willing to take, as the rewards are well worth the effort.

I’ve had the privilege of witnessing hundreds of stunning sunrises and sunsets all over the great state of Alaska. However, there is just something magical about the ones on Kodiak Island, which is where most of the images in this gallery are from. Enjoy.