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Morning ritual: Marquette photographer captures 1,000 sunrises and counting

A wave crashes onto the smooth sands of Lake Superior on a deserted shore as the sun rises above the horizon into a bright blue sky with scattered clouds.
Bugsy Sailor
Michigan Radio
Sailor captured a wave crashing onto the shore of Lake Superior in Marquette, MI in an August 2021 sunrise.

In the waning days of 2018, Bugsy Sailor set a New Year's resolution for himself: he would photograph every sunriseof the following year.

“I did not intend to keep chasing sunrises beyond 2019,” Sailor said.

But, chase them he did. Sailor enjoyed his daily ritual enough that he kept taking pictures, wanting to see where it would take him.

“And then, as everybody knows," he said, "the pandemic hit.”

Life changed radically for Sailor in March of 2020, as it did for the rest of the world. His business, U.P. Supply Co. had to shutter its downtown Marquette storefront.

“Thankfully I still had this routine of sunrise to latch on to,” Sailor said. “It became a really fantastic ritual to get me through the pandemic.”

A tree on the shore of Lake Superior on a cloudy day. There is snow on the sand.
Bugsy Sailor
Michigan Radio
A tree on the shore of Lake Superior on a snowy December morning in 2020.

Sailor told Stateside that although he's sometimes been tempted to sleep in, he's somehow made his way outside to photograph the sunrise each morning— and has timestamped photos for every morning since January 1st, 2019 to prove it.

"No deep fakes," he promised.

He posts his pictures on social media, and has amassed nearly 4,000 followers on Instagram. He also set up a gallery of the photos in his store once it reopened.

A sunrise over Lake Superior with pink, purple, orange and clouds.
Bugsy Sailor
Michigan Radio
A June 2020 sunrise over Lake Superior in Marquette, Michigan.

On September 26, 2021, Sailor posted his 1,000th picture of a sunrise.

Besides waking up before most of our alarms go off, one of the challenges of his sunrise photography habit has been keeping it creatively interesting for nearly three years.

Given the pandemic, Sailor said he wasn't doing much traveling, so he was often photographing from the same spots around Marquette. Recently, he leaned into that sameness when he did nine days in a row of a sunrise in the exact same spot, with the same composition, at the same time.

"I was a little hesitant to at first, thinking I was gonna get bored of this, but it was so cool to see the subtle changes and differences between those nine photos and it was a fun way to mix it up."

So, what's next for Sailor's sunrise projects? He said there are a few spots around the U.P. he has on his bucket list, and he'd love to photograph the Straits of Mackinac again. And eventually, he'd love to do a sunrise road trip down the East Coast.

"I know there's a town called Sunrise, Florida, so I need to get there."

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Claire Murashima is a production assistant for Stateside.
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