Mark Potter on Sunrise: A Photographic Journey

Arriving in pitch black at Matheson Hammock Park along Miami’s western edge of Biscayne Bay, I had no idea the sky would soon explode into layers of fiery red, pink, orange and yellow, reflecting beautifully in the lagoon below. It’s what dedicated sunrise photographers live for, and it’s why we wake up before our alarms to venture onto vacant beaches, Everglades and urban pavement to record the tropical light show. . I’ve been doing this for four years now, and I still can’t accurately predict what the sky will look like tomorrow. You have to wait for the morning, go out, look east and enjoy the surprise. That’s the beauty of it.

The photograph presented here is what emerged from this beautiful visit to the park. I have literally thousands of sunrise photos now, all inspired by and dedicated to my wife, Judith R. Potter, whom I lost in the spring of 2019 to ovarian cancer after a battle of three year. As Judith’s full-time carer, I struggled emotionally with stress, exhaustion, and the fear of losing my life partner. Judith, who has always cared more about her family than herself, suggested that if I was to survive our battle with cancer, I needed to find daily activity away from doctors, drugs, hospital rooms. hospital, insurance battles and palliative care. I agreed with her and chose sunrise photography because I could do it close to home and finish early before the long day of cancer care started.

As I write in my new book, Sunrise: A Photographic Journey of Comfort, Healing and Inspiration“It is the unvarnished truth that all of my bright and colorful sunrise photography began with extreme pain, fear, isolation, sadness and loss. But as miracles will sometimes have, and to my surprise, the pictures actually turned out to be the exact opposite of how they started. So many people tell me that they find my pictures upbeat and exciting or comforting and calming. Friends have also said that the morning photos were inspiring and gave them hope, which moves me deeply and of course inspires me to photograph even more.My smart wife clearly knew what she was doing.

Still today, seven days a week, I roll out of bed in the dark, brew a coffee maker, eat a light breakfast, load up my car with two cameras and a tripod, then drive down deserted roads in search of the next sunrise. of the sun. At first, I did it primarily for myself, to help me cope and heal, sharing the photographs with Judith, who loved them. But after I started posting some of the photos on Facebook and Instagram, I received an outpouring of support from friends and social media followers who said the photos helped them solve their problems too. They wanted more pictures, and they wanted a book, which energized me with a new purpose in life. On my daily morning outings, and with input from fellow photographers and insightful friends, I came to understand the healing power of the sunrise. For me now it symbolizes a new beginning, restoration, redemption, strength, warmth and a second chance to do better today than yesterday. As dawn and sunrise approach, I can see, smell and even hear the ecosystem come to life. Night winds ease, ocean waves calm, fog lifts, birds begin to fly and fish hunt their prey in the mangroves and ocean plains. High in the sky, the black and blue colors of night begin to fade, and if the clouds and humidity are right, the darkness is replaced by a glow of soft pastels. Then, from time to time, the hues deepen and the sky seems to erupt in a radiant pyrotechnic explosion. It’s the climax of what I call “Magic Time”, that hour of dramatic change from dark skies to a fiery tropical sunrise. Why the hell would anyone want to sleep late and miss all this?

I often marvel at how my current life as an outdoor photographer is so different from what I did for forty-one years as an on-air television correspondent, specializing in reporting investigation. While working for local stations, then for ABC News, CNN and NBC News in their Miami offices, I covered the Mariel Cuban boat lift, the McDuffie race riot, the Colombian cocaine murderers, the drug war in Mexico, the invasion of Grenada, Cuban and Haitian films. migrant smuggling, the trials of Ted Bundy and Manuel Noriega, political campaigns and dozens of hurricanes. I joke with friends that I went from hunting narcos to pelicans and pretty sunrises.

Surprisingly, there are similarities between these worlds. As in gathering information, you always have to be on time to catch the rising sun. The skill set needed to surreptitiously photograph smugglers is also the same as that used to regularly find and photograph birds, alligators, and other wildlife. You need preparation, positioning and patience – lots of patience. The biggest difference is that my life these days is much more serene, free from the editorial, deadline, and displacement pressures of network journalism. Best of all, it’s a satisfying and most enjoyable way to start each day – to recount and share my sunrise for Judith.

Mark Potter will speak at the Miami Book Fair on Saturday, November 19 at 11 a.m. in the Magic Screening Room Building 8.

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Michael E. Marquez