BURLINGTON, Iowa — The first thing Alice Tjaden does every morning is look out her window to see if the sky over the Mississippi River is cloudy or clear.

Tjaden has been taking photographs of the sunrise over the river almost every morning for the past five years.

Equipped with a camp stool, two cameras and a cup of coffee, she captures the quiet moments of early morning while most of her neighbors are still asleep. The first flecks of sunlight glitter on the water.

Tjaden snaps her camera at the same time and in the same location nearly every day, but somehow she comes away with hundreds of unique photos. The sun and the river never look quite the same, she said.

Her best shots make it onto the Pictures of Burlington Facebook page, to share the beauty with over 11,000 members of the social media group, the Hawk Eye reported .

Tjaden does not have to travel more than a few steps for her photography. Her backyard overlooks the expanse of water beyond a short, stone wall and framed by trees. Once covered in leaves, the trees now sit bare, their silhouettes still beautiful against the dark, early morning sky.

As she holds her camera to her eye, birds flit through the frame. Geese and gulls fly over “big island,” and if lucky, she captures an eagle mid-flight.

Tjaden said as the seasons change, the sunrise moves across the sky— in the far left of her yard in the middle of the Summer and in the far right by mid-Winter.

Her ideal circumstance for good photos is when there are a few clouds, the river is absolutely still, and when the sun comes up it turns the clouds into reflections on the water.

Tjaden often takes photos during the 30 to 45 minutes before full sunrise, just as the first spots of pink start to appear on the horizon.

“When it starts up you see a little bit of color, and a lot of times, when the clouds are up above it, the sun starts going up and all the clouds turn red,” Tjaden said. “Sometimes when everything is reflected on the river and everything on the sky it makes you feel like this is all one and you are part of it.”

Some days the sun paints a gold streak across the water. Tjaden has been trying for a while now to capture a towboat going through this “golden path.”

Other days, puffy clouds cover the morning sky, and rays of light shoot through whatever spaces they can find making the “Jesus picture,” as Tjaden’s children called it when they were younger.

Tjaden has always taken photos, but they were not always of sunrises over the Mississippi River. She originally learned on a Brownie camera, and the switch to digital and its ability to “snap, snap, snap,” led to her interest in sunrises.

When the weather is warm, Tjaden also likes to capture images of cardinals and warblers perched on the fountain in her yard, next to big, overflowing pots of impatiens. She calls it her “bird photo booth.”

Every morning, she takes between 15 and 20 photos, and then sorts them into folders on her laptop, deciding which ones to delete and which ones to keep.

“You look and you look and you look,” said Tjaden. “Which one is absolutely in focus. Which one is the best.”

By the time the sun is high in the sky, and Burlington begins to stir, Tjaden is already packing up her camera and heading inside.

Information from: The Hawk Eye, http://www.thehawkeye.com

An AP Member Exchange shared by The Hawk Eye.

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