Four Years In The Making: The Perfect Baxter Lake Sunrise.

Attempt Number One.

I love living on a lake, no surprise there. When I got my first camera, four years ago this month actually, one of the first things I knew I wanted to photograph was a sunrise over the lake. So one morning I grabbed my camera and tripod and went down to the beach closest to our house. There are a few boulders just a few feet from shore that I knew would be just the thing for that all important foreground element.

Being new to photography then, I figured all I needed to do was be there around sunrise, point my camera in the general direction of the rising sun, and wa-la, award-winning sunrise. Well it didn’t take long for that bubble to burst and realize that it takes just a bit more than that.

This is my first attempt, more of a “blue hour” photo than a true sunrise, but the clouds came in and this was as clear as it got.

It’s also pretty obvious, to me at least, that at this point in my journey to becoming a photographer I needed to learn a thing or two about composition as well.

Strike Two

My second effort didn’t turn out much better. If it wasn’t for the fisherman in the boat I’m not sure I would have kept the two images from this particular morning that have so far escaped the delete key. Not the most horrible photo I’ve ever made, but I don’t see any awards or sales orders in its future either. I do love the golden glow on the rippled surface of the lake though, so there is that going for it.

Jackpot!

Third time’s the charm. I was all set to head to the seacoast in the morning, but just didn’t feel like getting up early enough to make it for sunrise. So I settled one more time on the lake.

One of the biggest reservations I have about putting much effort in shooting this lake is the utter featurelessness (is that even a word?) of the far shoreline. It looks like someone took a giant pair of hedge trimmers and went nuts. Not a hill orΒ mountainΒ in sight, just a straight, flat treeline. I was going to need a great sky, along with my already chosen foreground element to make it work to my satisfaction.

Yesterday morning it happened! And I almost missed it, can you believe that? I got up at 5 a.m., stepped out on the deck, looked up, seeing mostly clouds I seriously considered going back to bed. Then, while having my coffee I looked through the trees toward the lake and saw the horizon to the east was open. Not much, but enough to make me grab my tripod and camera bag and make a fast walk to the closest of our beaches. Knowing that with only a sliver of open sky at the horizon, things could be spectacular, but they would happen fast and be over quickly, I didn’t waste any time getting to the water’s edge.

Mother nature did not disappoint, and the sky lit up just as I had hoped. It also came and went as quickly as I had anticipated, so I was glad I picked up the pace when I did. At best, I had 7-10 minutes of the most glorious sky I have yet to photograph over “our” lake. And the reflection on the surface of the lake, I’ll just let the photograph speak for itself…

Dramatic, firey, sunrise over Baxter Lake in Farmington, NH. The underglow from the rising sun give the cloud filled sky the appearance it is ablaze in purple, pink, and orange fire. All this drama is beautifully refelcted in the glass smooth water. In the lower left of the image, in water so shallow that the sandy bottom can be seen through the mirrored surface of the lake.

And to think I almost drove an hour to the coast…

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39 thoughts on “Four Years In The Making: The Perfect Baxter Lake Sunrise.

    • Thank you Susan (paid a visit to your corner of blog-land and found out what the SKE stands for πŸ™‚ ) I’m glad you like it. You have some outstanding images over on your blog. I’m glad I took the time to stop by.

    • Thanks Alice!
      The first was a 30 sec. exposure, the second was 1/10th of a second, and the last was .4 seconds.

      As for shooting a sunrise, for me a great sky is a must. I won’t even get out of bed unless there are at least some clouds in the sky. The only exception to this is if I’m in the mountains and the alpine-glow is what I’m after (that pinkish glow from the very first rays of sun hitting the mountain peaks). Then, I’m usually facing the mountains with the sun behind me, or off the one side.

      And yes, you NEED a tripod for these kinds of shots. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Karina, I’ve had some version of this composition in my head for a long time. It just wasn’t until this particular morning that it all came together.

      Over the last four years I’ve learned to pay closer attention to the weather. Getting up at insanely early hours and being there is relatively easy, but it’s all a waste of time if the weather isn’t going to be on my side. That being said, you have to be willing to gamble. I’ve driven three hours north, and hiked an hour in, to photograph the last light of the day hitting Mt. Washington, and the rest of the Presidential Range from Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge. I haven’t gotten what I want yet, because there have either been too many, or too few clouds in the sky.

      It’s a darn good thing I like being outdoors as much as I do, that’s for sure! I come home empty handed a lot more than I care too. But that is also half the fun πŸ™‚

    • The second one, “luck,” can play a huge part in any successful landscape photograph. No matter how much planning I put into a shot, Mother Nature can throw a wrench into the works at will.

      Yes, Rick, we may have a shortage of the grand scenic vistas of the western US, but with the mountains and the seacoast so close there is no shortage of great photographic locations here in New Hampshire and the New England region.

    • Thanks Jim. It sure was, getting up early and being there is half the battle. When the conditions are like this, I don’t think most people understand just how fast light like this can come and go.

  1. I think they’re all great pics Jeff. Although you may feel that number three is the best I preferred number one! I think it has a moodiness to it, and I love the deep blues and the gentle light. People are all so different in what attracts them to a picture.

    • Thanks Jude, I’m glad you like them. I think the biggest reason for my “disappointment” with the first two is that I was hoping for #3 each time. I do like #1 and #2, otherwise they would have been long gone, I’m brutal when it comes to the delete key. They just weren’t #3 πŸ™‚

    • I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Four seasons, fall foliage people come from the world over to see, the ocean an hour away in one direction, the mountains about the same in the other, and they don’t refer to the part of New Hampshire I live in the “Lakes Region” for nothing.

      Kind of hard not to find something good to photograph.

    • Thank you Lucy, the feeling is mutual.

      Sometimes I do wonder what the heck I’m thinking when the alarm goes off, but then I see a scene like this and remember exactly why I’m willing to do it.

      In my hunting days, before the camera replaced the shotgun, it was being able to see scenes like this, more than brining home a duck, or a grouse, that made being outdoors worth the lack of sleep.

  2. I know we are all a bit more critical of our own work, but I like them all. But it goes without saying that the last is a knockout. It’s a special moment when that sun catches the bottom of those clouds, putting out all those wondrous hues. You were pretty damn good in your first. When I started nearly three years ago, I used a flash on my first sunset! (yeah, I REALLY had no idea what I was doing). It’s what keeps us coming back for more. I’ve had way more sunrises/sunsets flounder out on me than money ones.

    • Thanks Brandon. I hear you on all counts, I know I’m my harshest critic. I have come close to deleting photos that, after posting to Flickr on a whim, other people have loved. I shudder to think of the photos I’ve deleted over the last four years that were good but I just didn’t see it at the time. I’m becoming much less hasty with the delete key, that’s for sure.

      Part of my problem, I think I alluded to this in my reply to Jude, is that if I don’t come home with the image in my head when I leave the house, I’m somewhat disappointed with the results, no matter how good they may be.

      One trick I’ve been using to save myself from deleting good photos is to almost forget about them for a week or two after I’ve initially gone through them after a shoot. This gives me time to forget the expectations I had for that particular shoot and focus on the merits of the photos I did manage to get.

      On your last point, the nice thing about photographing landscapes, most of what we photograph will be there “tomorrow.” And the sun rises and sets every day, giving plenty of opportunities to try again. If I came home with a photo like the last one every time, I think photography would lose something for me, “the thrill of the hunt” is part of the fun.

      • Good point about letting the photographs stew before processing. I’ve been doing that more and more. It takes a bit of discipline, especially when you know you have a really good one. There are many photos I want to revisit because I should have spent more time on them.

    • You have no idea how much I love it when one, or more, of my photographs inspires such a reaction from a viewer. Thank you very much for your enthusiastic comments! πŸ˜€

    • Thank you Paula. That one was in the running for “most proud of.” I knew there was a photo to be made on my “home” lake, I just had to stick it out and wait for the right conditions.

Comments and thoughtful critiques are always welcome.

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