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In Search of the Sunrise

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In Search of the Sunrise

Sandpoint's Kirk Miller spends a year documenting the rising sun


Sometime between 3 and 4 am in the morning, the birds begin to chatter and call, the noise so loud it’s surprising it doesn’t wake all those who slumber abed. Every day the birds perform their morning symphony to those heading home from a late night out; to the insomniacs who just can’t seem to get to sleep, or stay that way if they do; and to a small number of people who arrive at work so early that when the first blush of the arriving sun lights the sky (around 6 am this time of year), they’ve been up for hours.

And to Kirk Miller. Kirk Miller is also out and about listening to the birds’ morning activity.

“I had to get up early for work, and I haven’t lost that habit,” Kirk explained, even though he lost the job that occasioned his early arising. An Information Technologies specialist for Quest in Sandpoint, it was important his work on computer systems didn’t impact production, so he did major parts of it long before workers ever arrived in the offices. And though he was laid off from that job last year, he’s never quite developed a new habit of sleeping in.

An avid amateur photographer, now spending most of his time sending out resumes and waiting by the telephone, Kirk began to try to capture the sunrises he was witness to every morning. “One morning in August, they were burning fields and there was a lot of haze in the sky that created beautiful orange patterns as the sun came up. I walked down to City Beach to take a few pictures.” And from there, he was hooked.


Early every morning he would gather his camera equipment and head out to take pictures of the sun as it crawled above Lake Pend Oreille. 

“I’m always looking for the clouds,” he says, “because clouds add drama” to the shot. So at 2 am he’s checking the radar to see where the clouds are. And then he heads out along his “route,” a series of public access spots along the lake where he can wait for the sun to rise. Given the way the earth tilts during the seasons, he might be found at City Beach, Ponder Point, Black Rock or even Clark Fork. “I have gone all the way out to Clark Fork chasing the sun,” he said. “Clark Fork has something that holds clouds.”


Soon, he was posting his best photos on Facebook for his friends in far-flung places to see. “A friend of mine from high school, Jay Elliott, was a successful commercial photographer. He would challenge me to try different things.” And from her house on Garfield Bay another friend, Donna Duckworth, would match him for sunrise shots. “We would compare our photos of the sunrise—digital photos have meta data that includes the time the picture was taken. We could compare our sunrise shots from the exact same time, her in Garfield Bay and me on the north end of the lake.” Photographer Do Verdier (sandpointphoto.com) was another interested in Kirk’s documentation of the sun. “She has helped me a lot,” Kirk explained.

But it wasn’t just photographers caught by Kirk’s images: a rapidly growing population on Facebook also began to look forward to his daily view of the sun greeting Lake Pend Oreille.


“I started getting friend requests from people I don’t know who told me they wanted to see my sunrise pictures,” he laughed. “About a year ago I had around 100 friends; now I have about 700.”

And they’re appreciative friends. Just a few samples of recent comments include “Awesomeness captured wonderfully;” “All of these are breathtaking;” “Super crazy cool;” “Now that is the way to start the day;” and “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”


With the pressure of all those expectations—or maybe in spite of it—Kirk has documented the sun rising over Lake Pend Oreille every day for over a year, missing only one sunrise when he was in Oregon, interviewing for a job.

Kirk tries to include the lake in all of his sunrise photos, and captures an astounding array of colors, especially when clouds or smoke are present to help refract the light. His one rule? “Do it with the camera.” All his photos show what the camera saw when he took the photo; they’re not manipulated with computer software.

“(Kirk has) been inspiring a lot of people in different ways ever since he started blessing us with his sunrise photos,” said Do Verdier. “As a photographer, I have a lot of respect and admiration for what he does, in the old-fashioned style of photography: getting up early in the morning (every morning, for that matter) and waiting for the perfect moment, learning to be oblivious to the thousands of annoying bugs, as well as the cold! Kirk’s beautiful images touch our souls and hearts, and remind us every day of our blessings to live in such a gorgeous place.”


Although Do has offered to work with Kirk on a show of his work, and Facebook fans are constantly encouraging him to publish a book, the photography is just a hobby, and Kirk is still waiting for the phone to ring with the offer of a job from someone in need of a database specialist. Yet even his hobby demonstrates an admirable work ethic: he’ll spend several hours, and take hundreds of photos, to get that one, perfect shot, and he doesn’t miss a day. “Sure there are some days when you just don’t want to go out, like when it’s five below,” he laughed. But he doesn’t regret a single one of them. “For years, I had been working in a building, getting there before the sun came up and sometimes not leaving until the sun was down,” he said. “This has been a great way to remind myself of how much I love this area.”


If you’re looking to hire a hard working and knowledgeable IT specialist, shoot us an email (trish(at)riverjournal.com) and we’ll put you in touch with Kirk.


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Landon Otis

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Homepage, Headlines, photography, Kirk Miller, Do Verdier, Donna Duckworth, sunrise, landscape

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