Catching the light

A short photo essay about why it’s worth to show up

It was 8 PM, the day before when I’ve got the crazy idea of going for a trip to photograph the sunrise from the top of Babia Góra.

I would later see, that clouds almost entirely covered the peak and no sun for me, but it was one of best hikes I’ve ever had.

I was still on the short run when the details crystallized in my head, and I’ve messages my friend, Krzysiek, asking if he would like to join. He was in. 6 hours later at around 1:45 AM, with only 2–3 hours of sleep this night we were already in the car heading to Zawoja.

The forecast was looking good. No rain, some clouds, but on the way we’ve seen the clear night sky. Full of hope, we’ve arrived at around 3:00 AM, at the parking lot at Przełęcz Krowiarki, a pass which is a common starting point for the hikes to the top. The sunrise time for the day was 5:27 AM, so we’ve had a little above 2 hours to get up.

The dark sky

We’ve got out of the car, and the first thing we’ve seen was amazing, dark sky covered with many stars. We’ve decided to stop by and take some pictures. Note, that I’ve never done this before (except for one attempt, which failed quite miserably).

Without much thinking, I’ve set up the tripod, set the camera for settings that allow to capture maximum possible light and took three photos and then quickly picked up my stuff and headed for a trail, afraid that I may be late for the sunrise.

I’ve looked into the pictures later in the evening, and I was amazed how much I was able to capture on my old Canon EOS 450d camera — so many stars, quite good focus, and even the acceptable noise level! I did some heavy processing with Lightroom, and the effect is spectacular.

The Milky Way! Now, of course, the quality is far from what you see at some professional photographers, but I am super proud of this picture!

I’ve long dreamed about capturing a photo like this, and it finally happened!

Getting to the top

Back to the trip, I’ve started hike following red trail markers. It was still completely dark in the forest, and I was using a small headlamp for assistance. Because of quite steep the climb was uneasy. I was carrying tripod, DSLR camera, and some other stuff in the backpack.

Lovely colors of predawn sky was only there for 10–15 minutes and were quickly replaced by cloud that covered the ridge

Full of sweat, I’ve managed to get to Sokolica (1367 m), the first peak on the ridge. I’ve grabbed my jacket because of cold wind and also managed to capture some of predawn light and beautiful lights in the valleys.

After a short break for peanut butter sandwich, I continued my hike to the Diablak (1725 m) which is the highest peak in Babia Góra massif. The was getting worse, and shortly clouds covered the summit, and I was walking in the fog.

Fog and a rocky path on the final ascent to the summit.

Couple hundred meters before the final point, Krzysiek joined my company. He was running to the top via longer and much steeper trail. He reached the summit much earlier and went down to continue rest of the hike with me.

At the top, we’ve met couple dozens of people, camping there all night waiting for the sunrise. The weather was chilly, and with the strong wind blowing and it looks like there was no sunset to be seen. We spent maybe 5 minutes there and immediately wanted to go down.

It was unfriendly out there, because of cold wind and clouds covering the summit.

We’ve followed the trail to the opposite side of the mountain and descended towards the Markowe Szczawiny mountain hut.

The light

While walking down, the sky started to clear for short periods, but it wasn’t until we finished descent to Przełęcz Brona (1408 m). Just about the time!

Sun was already above the horizon, but the clouds disappeared, and we were admiring spectacular view.

We’ve set up our cameras and shoot for good 20 minutes.

A scenic view from Przełęcz Brona pass. Beautiful colors and light play.

Outside comfort zone

Just couple days earlier I’ve stumbled on this quote by Woody Alen:

“Eighty percent of success is showing up”

Thinking about it was the first impulse. Go out of comfort zone and try something new. The goal was to photograph of the sunrise.

We didn’t succeed.

Visibility — 20 meters.

But I’ve brought something much better from this trip: great memories, beautiful photos, motivation, and energy to fuel my passion. It was rewarding time.

All of this wouldn’t be possible if instead, I would stay at home, sleeping in warm, comfy bed. It happened because we’ve given up some sleep that day, poured some sweat and made an effort.

It is totally worth getting up at 1 AM to experience that kind of view!

Step outside the comfort zone, show up and be amazed by the world that is around you.

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Thanks for reading!

Originally published at on August 15, 2016.