April 5, 2013

Staying Sharp with Red Rocks Easter Sunrise


Sometimes the phone rings and it’s not a potential bride or groom looking for a photographer but a voice from our past. An editor from a newspaper or magazine phones us to cover an event or illustrate an article for a magazine. We usually jump at the chance to mix things up a bit. My good friend Gabriel Christus who works for Evergreen Newspapers, called to ask me to fill in for him while he vacationed in Costa Rica.

I have a soft spot for the newspaper group. My journalism career began as a freelancer for Evergreen Newspapers doing work for their group of papers: the Canyon Courier, Columbine Courier, High Timber Times and Clear Creek Courant. Their coverage area is huge, encompassing much of Jefferson County, so I knew I would be in for some driving. I love the area and it always feels like a homecoming when I do work for them.

My assignments ran the gamut: I was asked to shoot a group of homeowners from the Lower North Fork Fire area that visited the State Capitol to protest their treatment by the government, a 15-year-old artist from Bailey who’s pencil drawing are inspired by the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and, my favorite assignment, to photograph the Easter Sunrise Service at Red Rocks.

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I awoke around 3:15 to drive from Longmont to Morrison to capture the event. I planned well. Parking was plentiful and the crowds were somewhat thin as I made the pilgrimage from the Lower North lot to Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Hundreds of people were seated but many more were arriving by the minute in anticipation of the sunrise or the message or both.

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I staked out several spots and looked for interesting people to photograph as the sun rose and the message of the day was delivered. I came across a young girl in wrapped in the arms of her father to fend off the pre-sunrise chill. She seemed so content in her snowflake blanket. In many ways, photographing an event like this is like being in the wilderness photographing wildlife. You have to know the behavior of the subjects you are photographing and be in the right place when things happen. In this case, the rising sun would illuminate the world for the thousands gathered and it was nearly impossible to make a bad frame.

I feel it imperative to go beyond good light and search for something more storytelling about an event. I searched for the right spot and the right grouping of people and planted myself on the steps about one third of the way up the amphitheatre. I focused in on a couple keeping warm and fending off the chill as others did with blankets. As I photographed the scene, it became apparent to me that all of the people in front of me gathered at Red Rocks for a different reason on this sacred morning. Many came for the message and to worship. Many came for the spectacle that is the Easter Sunrise Service. Many just came to be warmed by the sun. I feel like I captured some of that in the photo that leads this post. The photograph doesn’t come as close to the feeling I got while being there. Most photos don’t. But it might shed a little insight into what it was to witness it in person. That is the best we can hope for as photojournalists.

I relish shooting events like this. Seldom do people get to witness the world in a way photojournalists do. To observe the world with a camera is like getting permission to people watch all the time without appearing rude. Most people understand that if you have a camera, you are there to document what is happening, or at least make pretty pictures.

I also feel honored to witness events like this. And, when shooting weddings, Eric and I are witness to momentous occasions in people’s lives. We are equally honored to witness them. Whether we’re shooting for a newspaper, a magazine or a wedding client, our goal is the same: to tell a story about the event we are there to experience. We love to speak with potential clients about our passion and drive to tell stories. If you appreciate the work we do, contact us to set up a time to meet. Even if your event is far in the future, set up a time to talk and make sure we get you on our radar.

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Chris Stark
Wedding Photojournalist at Stark Bellamy Photography
Chris Stark is an award-winning photojournalist and former news photographer who honed his craft at several Colorado newspapers. Documentary wedding photography translates perfectly into Chris' fly-on-the-wall style. Chris lives in Longmont, Colorado with his wife and daughter and spends his free time on the bike or hiking with his family.