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“…Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.” (Matthew 17:1-8)
It was still dark, way too early to be up on a Saturday morning, but nevertheless I was wide awake. I had taken the day off from Salamanca Market, where I sell my artwork, and had decided to pursue a photograph that I have always really wanted: sunrise over the Derwent Jerry (the morning mist that sometimes fills the Derwent River Valley in autumn and winter). I quickly loaded up the car and bolted up to the trailhead to Collins Cap, a mountain behind Hobart’s iconic Mt. Wellington. I raced the sunrise as I scurried up the track towards the summit.
About 15 minutes from the top the bush opened up to a magnificent view over the Derwent River Valley. With the sun just about to pierce the horizon, I realized that my chance to photograph sunrise over the Derwent Jerry was either now or never (or at least a very long time). Knowing I wouldn’t make it to my intended destination in time, I dropped my backpack and tore out my tripod. I quickly traversed a steep, icy rockslide (praying I, and more importantly, my camera, would not slip and break something in the low light) until I made it to a small, rocky outcropping.
I felt the grace of God upon me as I raced to set up the shot, literally not having a single second to spare. I really prayed and hoped that I had gotten all the camera settings right as I didn’t have time to do any of my normal test shots. I am so thankful to God that he enabled me to capture this beautiful sight. Looking back, I can see his sovereign hand on all of the different variables that needed to come together just right in order to take this successful shot. Thank you so much, God!!
After the sun had risen a little bit I decided to continue on to the summit and perhaps catch another nice shot. As I ascended the final metres of Collins Cap the icy air gave way to a strangely warm, humid cloud building at the summit. It was an amazingly breathtaking scene with the sunrise illuminating the top of the Derwent Jerry and the bottom portions of the cloud above me. It was like a sunrise between heaven and earth, and I was alone with God on the mountaintop to witness it with him.
In the time it took to set up my camera for another shot, the building cloud had now obscured my view below and fully enveloped me in a beautiful, warm, golden glow. A strong wind was blowing from the direction of the sun, and it gave the illusion that I was on the mountaintop rapidly flying through the sky into the light. Soon, from inside the cloud, a round rainbow formed around the sun.
I instantly could not help but think of the Shekinah glory of God, the presence of God with his people as a pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21-22), especially knowing that, “…and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne…” (Revelation 4:2-3).
It also reminded me of another passage of Scripture:
“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here…’When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” (Exodus 24:9-12-15-17)
Now that my clear view of earth was totally obscured, I also waited on the mountaintop and prayed. The importance of capturing another beautiful photograph faded away as I drew near to the presence of God in prayer. After waiting for an hour for the cloud to clear, I realized my photo opportunity was gone; however, I was totally spiritually refreshed and reinvigorated after that time of prayer, which was far more valuable to me.
That morning was one of the most amazing and special experiences I have ever had in God’s Creation. The way the natural paralleled the spiritual and helped propel me, through the Scriptures, into God’s presence was very special to me. I will never, ever forget it.
Another photographer managed to capture an amazing photo of what I witnessed, which is called a “broken spectre” or a “mountain spectre”. Well done, Andy Townsend!