My attempt to document 40 sunrises in Eastern Cincinnati. Spring 2011.

slightly cloudy

Sunrise 164: Ault Park (Soft Orange Spring Twilight)

Sunrise 164: Orange & Pink

This morning’s sunrise was a prolonged session of pink and orange. The temperature was a cool 60F and the distant hills were laced with light mist. I was hoping for a bright pink sunrise like the kind we saw last week. While the colors this morning were certainly bright, the palette had more orange than pink. The park was quiet this morning, too, which is surprising considering how active the birds have been over the last few days. I did see a single jogger in the park who stopped by to check out the sunrise, but other than that it was a solitary morning in the park.

If you’re connected to Ault Park Sunrise’s facebook page, you are now aware that my camera recently broke and I’m in the market for a new one. I’m putting together postcards featuring various photos from the last year of the project. They’ll be available for purchase and the proceeds will be put towards some new hardware. The silver lining to my camera’s untimely death is that I now have a true motivation to organize and collect the photos from the last year. I’m hoping to have at least 5 different postcard designs, some featuring individual pictures and others featuring themed “montages”. I’ll have more information up soon, but if you’re interested be sure to keep your eye out!

The other reason I mention the camera difficulty is because I’ve been trying to figure out how I’m going to be able to continue with the project until I get the new camera! My wife suggested that in the meantime I could use her phone to take pictures (mine is quite out of date and doesn’t take very good pictures). So this morning that’s what I did. The pictures didn’t turn out too bad at all, although I don’t have much control over color settings. The zoom and macro don’t work too well but hey, it’s better than nothing!

Heekin Overlook against a soft purple twilight sky

Day break across the Little Miami River Valley

Sunrise 164 was colorful and bright. The humidity created a prolonged twilight that was filled with oranges and soft pinks. Interestingly, the pinks were subtle this time around, as opposed to the bright magenta that I would have expected. I believe the humidity has something to do with it.

Here we see the young Tree of Heaven that is coming into full bloom! The flowers are white and the entire bouquet is rather large.

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Sunrise 162: Ault Park (Warm Front Twilight)

First Light; Sunrise 162

Boy, it sure felt good to get back on the bike this morning. I’ve been so busy at work over the past two weeks that I haven’t been able to muster up the energy (or time) for some early morning sunrise rides. It’s an interesting thing because I recognize it as entirely my fault, but sometimes once you get into a habit it’s hard to break.

After a late night yesterday and a surprise calm in the series of thunderstorms that came through the region, I decided that I just had to get out this morning. After painstakingly crawling out of bed (OK it wasn’t that bad!) and seeing lightly scattered clouds in the early twilight sky, I set off towards the park through the misty streets.

The air was warm and wet this morning. We had a chilly streak late last week with temperatures dropping down into the 40s again. Last night we saw a monster of a thunder storm and I’m going to take a wild guess and say it was a warm front. The clouds were puffy and humid at twilight and there was mist hanging around by the edges of the forest. A low lying cloud bank over the horizon blocked most of the pink twilight colors but made for a powerful moment when the sun peaked over the cloud bank about 5 minutes beyond day break.

It’s always so surprising to me when I notice just how lush the forests around here are in the spring. On mornings like today, with the moisture on the pavement and the mist seeping out of the forest, the plants’ foliage seem like they are swollen with water. I almost feel claustrophobic at the overlook when I compare the view to the naked silhouettes of the winter sunrises. I’m sure our warm winter only helped to add a multiplier to the strength of the local foliage. I suspect we’ll have an intense kudzu season on our hands by the middle of summer.

Here we see the young Tree of Heaven down by the overlook. At twilight the sky was opening up with light but the lower atmosphere was still rather dark due to the cloud bank that was blocking the early rays of twilight.

In the far corner of the sky I could begin to make out the orange highlights that signified that the sun was beginning to rise behind the cloud bank far, far away.

Rays of light started to burst from behind the clouds across the misty valley. Here we can catch a glimpse of them.

A close up of the rays of light, jutting out from just beyond the lower cloud bank. This view usually only lasts for a minute or so and is a sure sign that the sun is just around the corner.

A vertical shot, showcasing the upper atmospheric shadows and open blue skies. What a beautiful morning it is, indeed.

The lower overlook certainly provides the best viewpoint as we move into the May sunrise season.

A final shot from Ault Park’s Heekin Overlook. We can see the lush leaves silhouetted against the humid Little Miami River Valley. A typical spring day in Cincinnati at a warm and wet 55F 🙂


Sunrise 159: Ault Park (1-year Anniversary; Sidewalk Chalk Sunrise?)

First Light @ Sunrise 159

This beautiful sidewalk chalk art adorns the walkway in front of Ault Park’s central lawn on this one-year anniversary of Ault Park Sunrise. A spring sunrise tribute to the celestial titans? An innocent piece of work created by a young artist on a lazy Easter Sunday? Perhaps a professional installation done by a world master! Another mystery that will likely never be resolved.

Seriously, though, it’s a pretty neat piece of work. Well done mysterious Cincinnatian artist!

Macro Chalk. Even the moss between the stones got a color bath. With no rain being forecast for this week, perhaps this temporary art piece will last through this weekend.

It’s hard to believe, but Ault Park Sunrise is one year old! This past year has taught me so much in so many areas. I’ve gained a new appreciation of my local community and the larger city as a whole. It’s also been the first year where I have watched the seasons pass with careful diligence and focus, something that can easily slip by as we focus on our day to day lives. I’m only one sunrise away from 160, which would have made for a great coincidental time stamp but that will have to wait until later in the week. I also have a small queue built up of interesting posts, including an essay from a guest writer, some beautiful pictures of the Ault Park’s blooms from a friend (which have now faded into memory), and some historical pictures of a local estate sent to me by a fellow Cincinnatian that sheds some light onto the history of one of the large estates in the area. Also coming up is Sunrise 158, which one may notice is missing from the front page. I’ve been working on it for the last week but unfortunately I haven’t finished it. Rather than continue not doing morning rides while it’s in the hopper (I don’t like posts falling behind lest they never get published), I decided to just put it on the “draft” list and get on with Sunrise 159.

I woke up this morning after a long holiday weekend (following a long work week) with a yearning for a sunrise ride. The ride was brisk and I actually had to turn around after my initial departure to get a sweatshirt. I stopped by UDF for a coffee (freefil Monday) and was on my way. The sky was crisp and clear to the east, but there was a slow moving cloud front moving in from the west. As the sunrise arrival came near, the cloud bank continued to slip further into the  eastern twilight sky, making for an interesting sky dynamic that was changing through the colorful early morning show. The sunrise itself was a nice deep orange with a few pink highlights that briefly dashed across the impending cloud bank.

The most surprising thing to me is just how quickly spring has arrived. It’s been just over two weeks since I visited Ault Park (Alms Park was my most recent visit before we left for Charleston), and yet the overlook is lush with foliage and the trees are well on their way to having a full spring coat of greenery. I’m also pretty excited about the sunrise time that continues to push earlier into the morning. Sunrise 159 clocked in at 7:09am and it will only get earlier as we march into summer.

One of the best parts about exploring a city park after a weekend, and in particular a holiday weekend with great weather, is finding the leftover markers of human activity. Sometimes there is trash, but more often than not there is something else: sidewalk chalk art! This morning I found plenty to entertain along the main walkway that runs along the center lawn in front of the pavilion. I was amused by the video game inspired “MarioKart” starting line. It was even complete with a set of “?” boxes 60 yards up the sidewalk, whose purpose is to give the player that runs over them an item like a green shell, banana peel, or even star power.

Behind the Mariokart tribute there was another piece of artwork that appears to have been left by an artist with a bit more patience and a steady hand. I found myself quite moved by the artwork, especially after I considered that the subject of the work appears to be a sun with its rays bursting out from the center of the tile into a blue sky. The artist (or artists) carefully colored each individual brick in the sidewalk and were even symmetrically mindful. I find it so interesting that this artwork has appeared on the morning of Ault Park Sunrise’s one year anniversary. I’ll just try to not think too hard about it :).

I arrived at the park just as the twilight backdrop was coming into full bloom.

The twilight sky was just beginning to take on an orange gradient as the east-moving overhead cloud bank threatened to block out the sunrise.

Has it just been two weeks since I last saw this Tree of Heaven? She was the subject of many winter photos, and already she has a healthy coat of green growth. Until next winter, old friend.

Just before sunrise there was this vertical column of pink that shot up through the sky. Here you can kind of see it to the middle/left of the picture.

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Sunrise 157: Alms Park (Misty Hills, Tall Oaks, Spring Blooms)

A unique lighting situation @ Sunrise 157

A hard climb to Alms Park but the view makes it worth it!

Are these magnolias? (Nope. Dogwood!) They’re so small and the other magnolias have lost their blooms so I’m not sure…

Rain-battered yellow blooms race to fill up as much forest floor as possible before their taller brethren block out all the light.

I woke up Sunday morning with a penchant for a sunrise. After last week’s surprisingly beautiful spring sunrise (and subsequently & understandingly the most popular post yet so far of the project), I spent the rest of the week working early and ignoring the rainy & stormy mornings. After all, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to push such a beautiful set of pictures further down the front page unnecessarily! :).

This morning’s sunrise was certainly a unique one. I experienced a strong dose of nostalgia because I haven’t visited Alms Park for over three months! The last post featuring Alms Park was Sunrise 127, featuring the *incredibly lucky* cubic frost crystals. It is probably the most viewed picture I’ve taken for this project due to it’s popularity on the social news site reddit.com where it hit front page and was likely viewed by a couple hundred thousand people, if not more. I’m not sure of the numbers because wordpress doesn’t track individual pictures. Here’s the picture from that fateful day when the day break light was perfect and my camera just so happened to focus on the exact right spot:
(Cubic Ice Crystals on Clover; Sunrise 127)

So it came as no surprise that as I snaked my way down through Mt. Lookout and into the thickly forested residential neighborhood between Delta & Linwood Ave, it felt as if I was meeting an old friend. The route to Alms Park from Mt. Lookout is quiet and full of life (both of the human kind and the natural type). The old residential through-ways were originally designed for high volume so they are wide and smooth. When the Grandin Viaduct was torn down sometime in the past half-century, traffic volume dropped off and now the neighborhood roads are serenely peaceful in the morning before sunrise. The area features one of the oldest planned suburban neighborhoods (dating back to the 1920s or so) and the designers were tactfully mindful of the local forest. At times, the ride to the par almost feels as if you’re traveling through a small tucked away neighborhood in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

The route to Alms Park is also one that displays the challenge of Cincinnati’s terrain quite nicely. The entire route is a slow climb up to the the peak of the mountain from the basin of the valley that Mt. Lookout sits in. Just before the entrance to the park, at which point you’ve already climbed to the peak elevation, the road takes a steep dive down through a patch of old forest where the air is always noticeably humid and cold. At the base of this drop is the entrance to Alms Park, where one must climb another 200ft up a steep hill to the overlook.

I always feel an incredible rush of clarity when I finally reach that peak. It’s a route that’s short but also hard to rush. By the time you reach the top you’re surrounded by the ethos of Alms Park: The Forest. I’ve mentioned it in posts past, but Alms Park and Ault Park have such good balance when viewed side by side. Ault Park is organized, designed, open, symmetric, accessible, full of lawn & gardens, and the epitome of a well planned city park. Alms Park is tucked away, organic & asymmetric, cut out of the forest, filled with huge oak & pine trees with only a small garden by the pavilion. Ault Park has a sunrise shelter, Alms Park has a sunset shelter. The forest is around you in Alms Park, unlike Ault Park where the forest is held back to the boundaries of the park so that the beautiful gardens can take center stage. In Alms Park the forest is around you & above you. In short, Alms Park is the yin to Ault Park’s yang.

When I started off for Alms Park, there were clear skies above me. It seemed, however, that change was in the air.
Looking west up Erie Ave, heading to Alms Park in Mt. Lookout

I made a detour in the neighborhood behind Alms Park. One of the “No Outlets” has a nice cliff view of the eastern sky. At this point the sky is still relatively clear but that will soon change as the sunrise heats up the valley. The mist rises up into Alms Park, flooding the hillside with fresh moisture. I’m still convinced that the fog provides a micro climate on this hillside that isn’t well understood. It’s just… so lush.

Looking down Grandin Ave. Half a century ago there was a bridge at the end of this street. It was torn down at some point, turning this wide residential thruway into a quiet neighborhood street. There’s not a lot of historical documentation on the so-called “Grandin Viaduct”.

I always forget about this beautiful oak tree in the front lawn of St. Ursula Villa school. I wish I had spent a bit more time here over the winter, but I’m glad that I got this picture of the tree as it just begins to plup out in its spring coat.
Here’s one from the late autumn when the yard was frozen over and the dew had turned to crystals:
From Sunrise 122 (A great post, check it out)

Another pic from Sunrise 122:
 Frost & Oak

Apparently I’m really drawn to this tree in the fog… here’s another one:
The same oak but from a different angle… from Sunrise 108 (another foggy alms park ride from the autumn)

A twilight gradient behind the century oak.

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Sunrise 156: Ault Park (The Pavilion’s Alignment With the First Day of Spring…)

The weeping cherry grove at sunrise in Ault Park

The late sunrise colors turned into a slurry of pinks and purples, kind of like an Easter palette.

An aligned sunrise behind Ault Park Pavilion

Happy first day of Spring! And also, it’s official. Ault Park (through the symmetrical axis about the pavilion) can be considered to be aligned with the first day of spring. More specifically, it is aligned with the location of the sun about 10 minutes after sunrise on the first day of spring, allowing for a beautiful view down the hill and across the lawn.

I was hoping to make this morning a nice quick trip up to the park. The sunrise was calm and quiet in an atmosphere that had a soft mixture of colors. It wasn’t until the actual sunrise, however, that the sky started to light up and the clouds danced in an illuminated atmosphere.

As I mentioned yesterday, I had hoped to make it up to the park this morning to check in on the pavilion’s alignment with the sun. I must say that at first I was quite surprised, and frankly a bit confused. You see, yesterday I believed that the sun had risen to the right of the center of the pavilion. Well, today it rose to the left of the center of the pavilion. At first I thought that maybe I had it all wrong – that the pavilion was not actually aligned to the first day of spring. Well, as it turns out I was thrown off by the fact that the sun does not rise straight up into the sky. The sun actually rose in a diagonal, placing it front and center between the center two pavilion columns by about 10 minutes after sunrise. Once I figured this out I was much more relieved. It took me 156 sunrises to figure out that the sun doesn’t rise straight up – something that makes sense when you think about it but never encroached into my frontal consciousness.

I got lucky with some beautiful shots of the pavilion from across the lawn. With the sun’s intense rays making my camera use a high aperture, the effect is always a pleasant one – silhouettes and dynamic clouds.


The early twilight sky. Dark, calm, and quiet… well quiet if you don’t count the ridiculously loud orchestra of bird activity.

About ten minutes before sunrise I took off from the overlook to the main feature of this morning’s sunrise… the Ault Park Pavilion

From the pavilion the lawn had lit up nicely. We can see the park crew out and about on this fine first day of spring.

“Where’s the sun? Could it be to the right of center? I sure hope not…”

“Oh crap. I missed it…”

“Wait a second… something funny’s going on around here”

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Sunrise 155: Ault Park (Stormy Twilight; Weeping Cherry Groves)

Believe it or not, this is a GREEN magnolia blossom. I’ve never heard of such a thing! I may be mistaken, however, because I can’t find many references to a “green” magnolia on the internet. I’ll check back in at a later date to confirm.

In the weeping cherry grove off of Observatory Rd, a curious young female doe ponders my neon green t-shirt.

(Check out the sister post that hit the news stands about half an hour ago: Sunrise 154)

I’ll admit, I was pretty darned excited about the sunrise this morning. The atmosphere had a rich mix of cloud species with an open atmosphere behind it. It had all the pieces needed for a truly unique and majestic sunrise. In the end, it was a pretty neat sunrise but none of the early magentas, pinks, and purples made a very strong appearance. There was a thick low lying cloud bank that blocked most of the early rays of light before they could penetrate into the upper atmosphere above Ault Park.

Now that I know the secret behind Twilight Sunrises, however, I’m really looking forward to this spring. I mean just look at all these clouds!

As I arrived in the park, about a half hour before sunrise, the lower horizon was showing a deep red color. I was hoping it would fade into the upper atmosphere, but alas it remained confined to the lower horizon.

It did make for an interesting show, however. The sky stayed mostly the same for about half an hour until the backdrop suddenly lit up in a teal blue color as the sun rose behind the clouds.

The upper atmosphere made for a nice bright backdrop to the lower layers of clouds.

In the distance, we see a forest island in the midst of a river-of-fog.

That’s not water, it’s fog!

Lots of cloud action in the sky this morning… such a perfect opportunity for a breathtaking sunrise. The stars did not align but it makes that rare magenta sunrise that much more beautiful. Still… I can’t really complain. This morning’s sunrise was beautiful in its own right.

A plane takes off against the dramatic sunrise sky.

After the sunrise, I swung by the pavilion to check on the sun’s location relative to the alignment of the building. I was afraid that maybe I’d missed the “perfectly aligned sunrise” sometime this weekend. I was relieved to find that the sunrise isn’t *quite* aligned, yet. It still has one or maybe two days to go… which means that my theory may prove to be true after all! I’ve been following the path of the sunrise relative to the pavilion for several weeks now. You see, the entire park is symmetrical with the garden layouts and walkways. The entire symmetrical axis aligns itself relative to this pavilion… so it goes to show that if the pavilion itself is aligned to some celestial event, that makes the entire park aligned as well!

So it goes to follow that at some point in the next two days the sun will rise up squarely in the middle of the Ault Park Pavilion’s columns. What event is occuring in the next two days that would warrant such a dramatic design decision, you may ask? Well that answer appears to be the first day of spring!

It makes perfect sense… I mean just looking around the park this morning it was obvious that the gardens and the park itself is absolutely exploding in the trappings of spring. I would like to think that it is no mistake that over half of the trees in the gardens appear to be healthy mix of the blooming variety. Pears, cherries, magnolias, and I’m sure many others.

Could it be, then, that Ault Park is actually a living tribute to the miracle of spring? Suddenly the evidence is all around me. The pavilion alignment with its symmetrical park design, the several groves of weeping cherry trees along Observatory park, the myriad of blooming trees scattered throughout the garden and the handful of magnolia trees… not to mention the brand new cherry grove that was planted to mark the 100 year anniversary of the park.

It makes me happy to the core to find out that it is very likely that the pavilion, and hence the entire park, is aligned with the sunrise of the first day of spring. I believe that the ancient woodland (& others) mound building cultures (Hopewell, Ft. Ancient & Woodland) that lived in this valley for hundreds, if not thousands, of years would find comfort in knowing that we haven’t completely lost our bearings relative to our relationship with the celestial wonders.

I’ll be sure to make it of the utmost priority to get to the park for the next few sunrises to verify that my theory is correct. Stay tuned!

Just two weeks ago these cherry trees were barren. It’s amazing how quickly they bloom. Here’s a shot of the left cherry tree from a mere three weeks ago, when the chill of winter was present and snow had recently fallen:

 For the rest of the pictures, including some of the weeping cherry grove, please click to continue if you’re on the front page! (more…)


Sunrise 147: Ault Park (Layered Magenta Cloud Cover)

Sunrise 147 @ Ault Park

When I peered out the window at 6:20am, I couldn’t tell what the sky was doing. In my mind, I played with the idea of going back to bed but before committing I checked out the front door. High in the atmosphere there was a thick cloud layer that was making the eastern sky particularly dark, but it broke in the center of the sky to reveal a dark clear sky that was beginning to take on a subtle early twilight teal. I figured that it was worth the game and headed up to the park to see what the pseudo-spring morning had in store.

The temperature this morning was pleasant. Hanging slightly above freezing, it felt like spring with two sweatshirts on and insulated athletic pants. Looking out across the valley, the breaking cloud formation stood proudly in the distant left/north region of the sky. To my direct front, the cloud layer was thick but broke just above the horizon, revealing a deep gray-fading-to-orange sky beyond the far ridge line. At first, I wasn’t sure if any colors would get through the morning clouds. If only a sudden change in the western wind would slide the cloud break back over to the east a few miles…

But then I checked the time and realized it was 7:08am, a full 20 minutes before sunrise. There was still time for something interesting to happen. As it turns out, I only had to wait 5 more minutes…

Needless to say, the gamble paid off.

This is Mike the Turtle. His eyes are striped, matching his skin pattern. He loves romaine lettuce, hates iceburg. Likes chasing fish, does not like stawberries (unlike most other turtles who love them). When he’s basking in the sun he gets lethargic, likely giving into the life-giving warmth that only a cold-blooded animal could appreciate.

Coming into the park, I can see that the northern sky has broken and is reflecting some early twilight colors. But the eastern sky is dark and gloomy.

A plane takes off during mid twilight against a dark, gloomy, but hopeful cloud bank.

For the rest of this post, 12 pictures total, click to continue if you’re on the front page. 

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Sunrise 142: Ault Park (Unseasonably Warm Sunrise, Guest Sunrise #6)

A moody sunrise on this warm winter Tuesday

It seems that the topic of the day is the weather. Here in Cincinnati we’re having an unseasonably warm streak. As I write this the temperature is pushing 60F and I’m wearing a polo! It’s really bizarre and it has me wondering what May is going to look like…

I woke up this morning and peered out the window. I saw two things. First, a family of deer were munching away in our lawn. Four young females taking advantage of the warm morning. They were about 7 feet outside our back window and just stared back at us, chewing grass, when we opened the blinds to say hello. Second, I noticed that while the upper atmosphere was clear, there was a huge cloud bank in the lower half of the sky. Normally this means no sunrise for me, so I took my time getting ready before heading up to the park.

You can imagine my surprise when I rounded the corner on Linwood Ave and saw one of the most brilliant displays of pink and magenta just above the horizon. As it turned out, the lower atmosphere had a clear opening under the cloud bank and I was missing the show! I arrived at the overlook just as a family of 4 (humans, this time) were packing up their things. The sky had faded to a dull orange, and I confirmed with them that I was 5 minutes shy of missing a beautiful pink sunrise. Too bad! Whenever I figure out that whole time traveling bit, I’ll be sure to set it to January 31 2012 for a guaranteed unique sunrise.

The sunrise this morning was not unlike the sunrises of April 2011 – dynamic, moody, and full of change. In other words, exactly what you’d expect on a day whose temperature is 40F higher than what you’d expect. Let’s hope that the next sunrise is of similar style so that I get a second chance. Although, to be fair, I haven’t adjusted to the fact that the sunrise is slowly creeping earlier each morning as our countdown to summer continues. I’m still mentally prepared for an 8:00am sunrise, so the 7:44am sunrise of this morning actually did catch me off guard. Now that I know about the majesty of twilight colors, sometimes up to 45 minutes before sunrise, I’m thinking that spring and summer of 2012 may be even more of a challenge than 2011, considering I’ve moved my arrival time from 10 minutes before sunrise to a half hour before sunrise. It is, however, totally worth it.

During the past couple of days I’ve received three sunrise pictures, so I’ve included them here in our sixth Guest Sunrise post. One is from Trent, another shot of the San Francisco sunrise, one is from Leah who is visiting Florida, and the other is from Amanda (the wife unit) who went to work a bit early this morning and caught the sunrise on the way to work. Thanks for submitting everyone!

Guest Sunrise #6: East Coast, West Coast, MidWest

Ft. Lauderdale Sunrise. Thanks for the East Coast sunrise Leah!

San Fransisco Bike Commute Sunrise. Thanks for another sunrise contribution Trent!

Erlanger, KY Sunrise. Thanks for the second viewpoint of this morning’s sunrise, Amanda!


The late twilight sky as I arrived at the overlook in Ault Park. To think that just 10 minutes prior, all of that orange would have been a blazing pink and magenta display.

A plane takes off into an atmosphere that is slowly getting brighter as we approach sunrise. This is an iconic “Spring Sunrise” atmosphere, which is strange since it is January 31.

Heekin Overlook. Armleder is flooded again. It is worth noting that Armleder was flooded last spring, another sign that this is unseasonable weather.

Sunrise 142

First Light over the Little Miami River


Sunrise 137: Ault Park (Stormy Winter Skies, Ft. Ancient Preview)

The twilight sky before Sunrise 137

First Light @ Ault Park’s lower overlook

It “warmed” up a bit this morning to just under freezing, a brisk 30F. The sky was clear last night before bed, but by the time sunrise rolled around most of the sky was filled with clouds. The horizon, however, was mostly clear. The forecast for this week puts us with some rain tonight and hopefully some snow later this week. The clouds that started to fill the sky this morning have successfully blocked out the night skies as I write this post late in the day. (I had to make a trip to the dentist this morning which pushed my schedule behind quite a bit!). Actually the dentist visit went great. It was one of those things where modern anesthesia makes getting a cavity filled a mere inconvenience, where as 100 years ago it would have been a memorable event marked with lots of whiskey and excruciating pain.

While I drove out towards the Mt. Carmel office, I found myself winding through the Little Miami River Valley, upon which Ault Park and Alms Park sit. I have recently been in contact with a graduate student who studies the Ft. Ancient culture, specifically the earthworks and burial sites that were at one time located in the Little Miami River Valley. Hopefully we will be working together in the next few months as we piece together old documents that he has uncovered from the late 1800s. These documents were surveys of the valley and identified interesting ruins and burial sites uncovered during the development of the region. Just a few miles over in Mariemont, a large serpent mound was recently uncovered and it may be the world’s largest. Matt tells me that this area would have, at one time, been home to tens of thousands of mounds. How many are left after 200 years of development? It would be most excellent if we are able to locate some of these sites that have not been documented in recent history and help set into motion the necessary actions that would lead to their protection. It is fascinating to me that while I’ve been concerned with the last 150 years of history in this region, there is a much larger and older story that dates back several thousand years. Matt has identified several old buildings and landmarks that may go by different names today (or be gone all together). It is my hope that with the resources I’ve explored in developing this project I can help Matt put some of these historical landmarks into the context of modern day. There are some old estates that are referenced that have probably long since been sold to developers, and also lots of locations that are given relative to old rail lines, tresses, and stations that existed in this area in the 1800s. Stay tuned, it should be a fun project.

On to the sunrise! This morning’s sunrise was a strange one. The thick cloud layer over head broke right above the horizon. This affect is always interesting because it can expose the open atmosphere to allow the sunrise colors to become visible, but at the same time the puffy pseudo-cumulus clouds can be just as interesting to watch due to the nature of the shadow patterns that dance around while the sun is rising and the light is changing. The clouds take on this bright blue/gray color with sharply defined boundaries. It’s very hard to pick up on the camera, but with the human eye it looks interesting. Speaking of the camera, this morning was one of the hardest sunrises to get a decent picture of. The bright twilight sky was restricted to being just above the horizon, while the rest of the sky was dark with clouds. This made my little camera’s sensor very confused as to what its white balance and exposure should be. A more configurable camera would have come in handy. Oh well! I turned down the exposure so that the twilight colors weren’t washed out and away I went.

One last thing about the sunrise this morning. Right when First Light peaked over the ridge line, the park was bathed in this brilliant deep orange glow. I caught it on camera but, as usual, the picture doesn’t do it justice. It was one of those shades of color where my vocabulary simply is at a loss to describe it. A deep red/orange/neon/yellow. Very rich.

Looking South/West towards Lunken Airfield.

Heekin Overlook, 30 minutes before sunrise. Dark with a brightening twilight horizon that was difficult to capture.

This is like -1 exposure, about as dark as I typically am comfortable doing. That’s the only way I could get a picture without the entire horizon looking bleached out white! This is my new favorite sunrise target. It’s a tiny little “Tree of Heaven” that rises up in front of the lower overlook. I used to get a bit annoyed at it when I realized the sun was moving across the horizon and it would be in the way.

So I think this little guy is an adolescent Tree of Heaven. Wikipedia tells me its latin name is Ailanthus Altissima. Want to know something interesting, fair reader? I hope you do, because I’m about to lay it on you. The answer to a mystery I pondered earlier this year, coming together in a full circle of life. Ready for it?

  1. I found a caterpillar back in spring. Species Unknown at the time. (Sunrise 24)
  2. I found this moth back in the summer. I identified it as an Ailanthus Silkworm, and postulated that it may be the adult form of the caterpillar from Sunrise 24 (Sunrise 91)
  3. Now it comes full circle. As it turns out, this Ailanthus Altissima (Tree of Heaven) is a host of the moth. As the tree migrated north (apparently it is considered a pest in some circles), it brought it’s orange and white colored moth friend with it. Cincinnati is in the northern tip of the “Humid Sub-Tropic” climate, so there are a lot of species around here that have crawled up from the wet forests of the southern USA and survive here quite well.

I just scrounged around and found a picture from Sunrise 48 that showcases this lovely little tree. Here she is (on the right) with a full coat of summer leaves, back in the middle of a hot and sticky day in Cincinnati. It’s also interesting to look back on this sunrise from the middle of winter. So much humidity. The sun rose that day with a shade of deep, blood red. Note how far to the left the sun is.

Sunrise 137, you were a tricky one.

“First Light”. I could not, for the life of me, get a picture that didn’t include this bleached out white glow. In reality it was a bright and rich orange.

Reminds me of a stormy spring day. This is January, right?

A vertical shot, looking out over the Little Miami River Valley

An attempt to capture that orange glow that was permeating across the overlook.


Sunrise 127: Alms Park (Macro Clover Ice Crystals/Cubes, Breaking Sky Sunrise)

A clover leaf covered in ice crystals in the early sunlight of Sunrise 127. The bald spot is where my large fumbling fingers accidentally knocked two crystals off of the leaf.

A high-resolution picture of Frozen Dew Crystals on the previously shown clover leaf! Note the even spacing of the small crystals. My friend lee suggested that the clover may release a waxy oil which would cause the water to bead up. I’m not exactly sure what is causing it, but it’s a very neat effect. For the rest of the macro crystal shots, be sure to read the full post (they’re at the bottom!).

The first shot featuring a small amount of pink highlighting in the atmospheric cloud layer.

This morning almost didn’t happen. I woke up at 7:00am and attempted to shrug off the biochemical cocktail that almost convinced me that the sky was overcast and it wasn’t worth riding up to the park in 25F (note to biochemical self: it always is!). I poked my head out the front of our apartment building and noticed a patch of blue skies through a tiled cloud layer. Ok! Game on! As it turned out my bet was well placed. For a 72% cloud cover, this morning’s atmosphere was certainly atypical!

This morning’s sunrise was not unlike Sunrise 9, although with a bit less drama. Sunrise 9, back in April, is a classic example of a dynamic sunrise with a low lying cloud bank and an overhead light layer of clouds that can provide lots of interesting color dynamics. Here’s the picture from Sunrise 9 that stands out as one of my favorites of the project and also was printed in the local paper at the start of this project (click for higher resolution):

(As it turns out, 92 people “recommended” that article on Facebook. I had no idea! Thanks whoever you are!)

This morning I headed up to Alms Park in search of a twilight sunrise. Now that I’m more aware of how much fun the twilight period can be of a sunrise, I’ve taken a liking to getting up about a half hour early to catch the show. This is an advantage of the “late” sunrises of the Fall and Winter that I had not considered until now! On mostly clear mornings I can catch the pre-game show which can start as early as an hour before sunrise on a dry clear sky morning. That puts me in the park at 6:45am at the earliest, quite a reasonable time. During the middle of June this would put me in the park at 5:00am!

The atmosphere was interesting for Sunrise 127. There was the remnants of a dark cloudy layer overhead that I was certain would mess up the sunrise. However once I started on my way to the park, it was obvious that the cloud bank was being pushed out of the eastern sky to reveal a dark navy clear atmosphere. There was a low lying bank of haze just above the horizon in the distance that kept the sunlight at bay, preventing penetration into the upper atmosphere. This made for a dynamic purple/orange sky but there were no real traces of the magenta highlights that I was hoping to catch after missing them several sunrises in a row.

There is a final reason that I have found to enjoy these ice cold sunrises. During the day when the temperature rises up to the 40s, 50s, and even the 60s, the air starts to saturate with the water from the Little Miami River and the great Ohio River. At night as the temperature drops into the 20s (welcome to Ohio!) the water is pushed out from the air and is subsequently frozen. The ice crystals from the foggy days are thick because of the high water concentration, but the crystals from this morning were smaller and cubed. In fact with this little point-and-shoot it’s possible to see the geometric nature of the crystals which was surprising to me when I zoomed in on the LCD screen.

I approached Alms Park and arrived roughly 25 minutes before sunrise. Yesterday the sky was much brighter at this time than today due to the upper cloud layer and the low lying haze bank that obscured part of the early light.

The twilight sky above Lunken Airport from Alms Park. There’s a standing pool of water, left over from the recent autumn rain storms.

The south/eastern sky, facing the Ohio River to the right side of the picture.

For the rest of the pictures, if you’re on the front page, click to continue. 18 total including more ice crystal macro shots. (more…)