Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sunrise, in the morning

Every so often, I like to go walking around the neighborhood late at night. Haven't done it lately, or all that much, but the city becomes very different at 3 AM and you can see things that you never would have otherwise (such as two cats fighting over territory in a back alley). I think that the urge to go outside late at night had been stronger back when I was drinking 10 cups of coffee a day (I'd read a newspaper article saying that 10 cups a day would kill you and I wanted to see if that was true).

Kagoshima City has some colorful sunsets, and the thought occurred to me to try photographing the sun going down behind Sakura-jima, much like I had wanted to do with Mt. Fuji from my old apartment. The problem is that Sakura-jima is to the east of me and I'd have to go some 30 miles over to the peninsula to get the shot. Instead, it seemed more reasonable to get the sunrise. I checked weather.com and it said that sunrise would be at 5:30 or so. So I set my alarm for 4:40 Monday morning and went to bed at midnight. When the alarm went off, I started looking for excuses to go back to sleep. There were clouds, there was a forecast for rain that day, and the sun had already started coloring the sky and it would take 20 minutes to walk to Dolphin Port for the pictures.

Monday night I checked weather.com and yahoo for the forecast and they said the exact same thing again - thunder storms, with sunrise at 5:30. Figuring that both of them were wrong, I decided to simply stay up and check the sky at 3:30 AM. I pulled out some of my papercraft projects and kept myself busy for the next 4 hours. I headed out at 4 AM. Again, the city was nothing like during the day. A couple 24 hours restaurants were still open; a couple fighting in the streets in front of a bar; some taxi drivers parked along the street and killing time; a bar closing up for the night; and a video game shouting loudly in front of a shuttered gate. At Dolphin port, the sky was just changing colors when I rolled up at 4:30.

One homeless guy was sleeping at a bench; a street construction worker was sleeping sitting up at another bench with the red LEDs of his safety vest still flashing; and 3 couples scattered around the park waiting for things to get started.

While there were clouds around Sakura-jima, as I was expecting, they had the potential of lighting up well in the early sunlight. But, my first disappointment was in seeing the light coloring the cliffs northeast of me. The way the light looked, the sun wouldn't be anywhere near the volcano, messing up the shot. As time passed, more of the sky lightened up, making it even harder to see where the sun was supposed to be. At 5 I was thinking that I'd give up and go back home since I had no idea when the sun would clear the cliffs. But, I also wanted to get closer to the end of the piers to get a shot of the clouds coming off the volcano.

(Cliffs facing north. The ferry from Sakura-jima is already running at 4 AM.)

(At the end of the pier, and the volcano.)

What amused me here was that there was a massive bank of clouds rolling up from Okinawa, but they all seemed to be aimed right at the volcano, piling up and thinning out as they went over the top. Apparently clouds don't like going AROUND obstacles. Also, while the clouds were heading north, the wind was hitting me in the face going south.

At 5:30, the sky was fully lit up and the air was still pretty cool (became very hot and humid pretty quickly, though). I still couldn't see the sun anywhere. Eventually the clouds broke up enough at the north base of the volcano for the sun to glare through. Its physical location was much closer to the island than the sunrise had led me to believe, but the clouds were so thick that I had no way of knowing that. On the other hand, the colors in the sky were so mild and washed out compared to the sunsets. In the future, I'll use the online webcams to see if the sun is moving back behind the volcano again and save myself the walk.

I got back to the apartment at 6 AM. At that point the rooms were completely lit up. I can't sleep if there's too much light out, so it took me an hour to fall asleep and when I woke up for good at 10 AM, it left me dragging all day. Time to go back to drinking more coffee I guess.

(Cloud build-up.)

(5:30. Sun's already well into the sky before I could finally see it.)

(Safer to say that sunrise is at 4:40, and not at 5:30 like Yahoo claimed.)

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