This was the best sunrise I have ever seen. It broke over a tree-covered ridge where wind turbines spun eagerly in the first orange rays of light. I watched the sky’s colors gratefully as I ate a bowl of cold rice. A few minutes later, I smashed the pair of sunglasses I bought in Bethlehem when I forgot that they were stored in an exterior pocket of my heavy backpack. Sleepily, I cursed and shouldered my load.
The reason for my joy at sunrise was that the previous night had been one of the worst of my life. I had camped wild near Mosfiloti, perhaps a mile and a half from the Buffer Zone as the crow flies. The idea had been to explore some more difficult-to-access locations near the Buffer Zone on my way to Larnaca, but for reasons I can’t truly remember, I bailed on this plan and headed straight for the coast.
Night was awful as self-doubt and fear encroached in the darkness. There were unidentifiable howling noises and distant bangs, each of which my imagination amplified into twisted visions. Before these long hours, I had no idea that my mind was so powerful but susceptible, and could turn against me that easily. It was as if darkness had left me blind to everything I normally used to interpret and contextualize my thoughts and actions. I felt like I was down to survival mode after one sunset and a few hours.
While I’m not an expert, I have done a fair bit of camping, in places more remote and wild, and in more challenging environments. I am certified in wilderness first aid and I was reasonably well-prepared for my endeavor. I expected my experience to be liberating and a welcome get-away from the urban life I was used to. Instead, I found that I was just relying on a larger set of uncontrollable circumstances for my well-being which was terrifying and downright stupid.
The next day, I made it to Larnaca and spent hours wandering around different parts of the city looking for a place to stay. The campgrounds my map alluded to were closed and after walking nearly 14 miles I made my way to the same street corner I had started on and checked into the first hotel I had seen upon entering the city, took a shower and slept for 13 hours. I had never felt more lost or purposeless.
I was at home in Minnesota for the holidays, and managed to convince my mom to drive around the countryside just east of our neighborhood so that I could take pictures of the landscape at night. It was snowing and the roads were slippery, but my mom was up for an adventure.
Since being in Boston, I’ve only caught a view without buildings a handful of times. I miss the big skies of the prairie, and all of their isolation and loneliness. I’d also forgotten how much longer and quieter the night feels when there aren’t buildings to block the huge darkness with their windows, radiating with yellow light.
I want to expand on this series, but am not sure when I’ll have the chance to. For now, here’s my take on winter nights:
Night photography around campus was one of those things that I kept putting off, always busy sleeping or (more likely) studying. So last May, in my waning days of college, I dedicated an entire night to shooting some of my favorite places at Carleton. This photo was taken just after sunset at the Hill of Three Oaks, in the southern reaches of the massive Arboretum. Using a tripod, I set my camera for a 30 second exposure at f3.5. I achieved the lighting of the tree by running up the hill and ‘painting’ the scene with a flashlight. I was constantly moving, so I am not in the image, although it took a few tries to learn how to hold the flashlight to avoid accidental trails of light. Even in this image, you can see an artifact of my method in the lower right. My work was actually interrupted by campus security, who saw flashing lights from a distance and came over to investigate! A few weeks after I made the photo, I sold a few prints in the Senior Art Show.