My wife and I took a trip to Huntsville to visit some friends. I thought you might be interested to see how a trip like this works for somebody with a photography habit.

I’ve never found a good way to scout a sunrise location from afar. I’ll go to Flickr and search the map for “sunrise” but it doesn’t really work. I have just as much luck looking on Google Maps and searching for green places (parks) on the map. You’d think somebody would come up with a location finder ap for outdoor photographers. (Yes, that is a hint.) I’m assuming outdoor photographers would be willing to share good locations that are on public land. I guess it would be too much to ask for parks to label their maps with “good sunrise spot for pictures HERE” or “Nice sunset spot HERE”.

This is just my way of saying that I didn’t know where I would go for a sunrise picture on my first morning in Huntsville. I didn’t have time to do any scouting on the afternoon we arrived. After all, I was there to see friends, not make pictures. I knew I’d like to be at Monte Sano State Park but the cabins were sold out and the park doesn’t open until 8 AM — long after the sunrise.

Monte Sano Hours

So, the first morning, I took a chance and went to the closest park nearby — Brahan Spring Park. I could see it had a small lake in it, with the hills to the East so I thought there might be something there. There was.

IMG_4034 Power Lines

After walking around about 10 minutes it was obvious that — between the lights and the utility wires — I wasn’t going to get anything there. So I packed up and headed for Monte Sano. Yeah, it wouldn’t be open by the time I got there but I wanted to see it and maybe I’d find something else along the way.

That something else turned out to be the Through Springs Trail. I saw the parking lot for it on my way up to Monte Sano and thought, if I can’t get my sunrise picture, I might as well get some exercise. I might even get a picture. It’s a lovely trail.

┬ęDon Brown 2016

I arrived at the entrance to Monte Sano State Park about 7:45, 15 minutes before it opened. Yet, the gate was open. I drove around and finally found the overlook. Bingo. It’s a nice view and it faces east. A fellow photographer was already up there (a bird photographer) and I asked him about getting into the park earlier. He told me the main gate is always open, and the gate to the overlook — well, just walk around it. It’s only a 100 foot walk from the interior gate to the overlook.

So, i did just that the next morning. I paid my five dollars at the main gate, drove to the overlook and parked on the side of the road outside that gate. I even took a picture of it just to use on this blog.

┬ęDon Brown 2016

It wasn’t much of a sunrise that morning (no clouds) but that is something photographers just have to live with. We can’t control the weather. We could control all that other stuff. We can have a park that is open for the sunrise with a nice place to take a picture of the sunrise (and sunset) — marked on the map — without utility wires or streetlights ruining the view. The bonus is that all the other citizens can enjoy it too. The hiking trail, the biking trails, the running track, the gardens and anything else we decide to put in the park.

Don Brown
April 14, 2016

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