Sunrise Hunting Over the Manitoba Escarpment

Written by Andy Goodson
Photography by Andy Goodson, Mitch Doll and Sean Hootz

While I restlessly played through my Super Nintendo games this past winter, I had to shake myself out of the lull and start planning a camping trip to start off the season. If there's one thing I learned from a winter spent wandering Planet Zebes and the Mushroom Kingdom, it's that everything's more fun when you have a mission. 

I got the idea to camp at a known place along the Pembina (Manitoba) Escarpment where you can see the rolling highland taper off into the infinite plain- the former seabed of ancient Lake Agassiz. Visually speaking, it's a big hill where the road kind of looks like it trails off into the sky. Our objective would be to shoot a time-lapse of the sun rising over the distant horizon and photograph the camping experience. 

Sean was the first to be on board. His camera would be vital to shooting the time lapse since my camera lacked that function. Sean was soon followed by Mitch- yet another photography fiend. Mitch was then followed by the rest of our idiot brigade. There were eventually 8 people enlisted in our group. Being the first trip of the season, I suppose we were all excited to get outside. 

The weather was on our side as the temperature approached 20ºC on the afternoon of our arrival. After locking the cars and gearing up, we started our march down a closed back road. 

This is a familiar and comfortable place for us to spend the night. That said, we now take every precaution to leave the place a bit cleaner than when we arrived. Removing litter whether it belongs to us or not, and practicing leave-no-trace is of absolute importance, especially with a larger group. 

We decided to set up camp in an empty river bed that will soon be submerged under coursing melt water in a few weeks. The openness of our spot gave us a little extra sunlight to work with, but left us vulnerable to the wind. I only realized this when a storm picked up in less than a minute- flipping my tent, wetting my gear, and reminding me that nature calls the shots.  

The sky remained filled with grey into nightfall. 

The storm had dampened my hopes of filming the sun rise, so we continued to shoot-the-shit around the campfire well past midnight. After everyone else had gone to sleep, Sean and I looked upward and were surprised to find a clear sky covered in stars. 

The mission was back on track. I slept for one frigid hour before waking up at 4 AM and strapping on my hiking boots. Sean, Mitch and Kyle joined me on the long march up to the peak of the hill. Sean was able to set up his camera by 5:30 AM without much time to spare. 

We got a fire going for some coffee, sat back, and watched the sun rise.

We shot continuously for over three hours. Sean compiled a few other time-lapse shots from the weekend to compose a video. Needless to say, it's best enjoyed in full-screen HD

This was our first time attempting a shot like this and we made a few mistakes. Our only true regret was ending the shot too early as the clip cut off just before the valley was illuminated by daylight. However, the trip itself was a success and we're left with the excitement of trying again— until next mission.