Rookie mistake #1 when photographing sunrises – show up just before the sun rises.
When you should have been there at least 30 minutes earlier.
While out photographing a sunrise I almost always have the place to myself. That is right up until just a few minutes prior to the sun peeking over the horizon. That’s when other photographers start showing up.
Sadly for them quite often they’ve already missed the best part of sunrise.
With the technology we have available as photographers today there are easily dozens, if not hundreds of sources to find out what time sunrise is. From smartphone apps to a quick Google search an aspiring sunrise photographer can easily find out what time that big fiery ball in the sky will be making its daily appearance.
What none of these apps will tell you is that by showing up right at sunrise, or even just a few minutes before, may very well cost you the best light of the morning.
Which is why I always recommend showing up 30-45 minutes prior to sunrise, the best light is often long before actual sunrise(each of the above photos was taken at least 20 minutes before).
No more running around while the light is fading.
Reason number two for showing up early is choosing compositions. By showing up early you then have plenty of time to chose your composition, or possibly multiple compositions. Light changes fast, if you know ahead of time exactly which compositions you would like to capture you can capture each one quickly because you’ve done a little scouting having arrived with plenty of time before the sun comes up. If on the other hand you show up right as the light is at its best, or the sun is just peeking over the horizon you then end up rushing around and having to settle on a composition that may not be the best one on that particular day.
The photo below illustrates this point. Nubble Light is one of themes photographed lighthouses in the U.S., therefor I like to try for something a little different each time I photograph it. By arriving at the parking lot 45 minutes before the sun came up I was able to wander around the rocks until I found just the composition and point of view I wanted. Had I shown up just as the sun rose above the horizon I would have had considerably less time to chose my composition and then set up my camera and tripod.
While the early bird is out catching their worms, the early photographers are capturing the best light.
In landscape photography no matter how beautiful the scenery being photographed, having a dramatic and vibrant sky can be the difference between a so-so and a So Good! photograph.
Forget about clear skies.
For the most dramatic skies with the most vibrant colors you need clouds. Not just a few little wisps of clouds either, you need enough clouds in the sky to capture the fiery light of the rising sun.
The down side to chasing vibrant, dramatic skies like in these photos is quite often I come away with nothing.
Let me explain.
When chasing vibrant sky I pay close attention to the weather and incoming/outgoing weather fronts. Living on the east coast of the U.S. I look for passing storm fronts that are moving out over the ocean around sunrise, my hope being that the sun, or at least some of its glowing light, will reach the distant horizon before the leading edge of the storm does. If all goes as I hope I may come away with photos filled with beautiful scenery and vibrant fiery sky.
All doesn’t always go as planned though. In fact I would have to say that I have lost my gamble with the weather more often than I have won. Sometimes the clouds beat the sun to the horizon, dashing any hopes of a colorfully vibrant sky, and the times the forecast is wrong and the clouds or storm passes leaving me with clear blue, and rather boring to my taste, sky.
However when I do get lucky and win, I often win big with skies like the ones seen in the accompanying images.
Tips and tools for capturing your own vibrant sky.
1 – Get an alarm clock and use it! You’re going to need to get out of bed early, very early depending on how far you are from your chosen destination. I plan to be on location at least 30 minutes prior to actual sunrise. Some of the most dramatic light you’ll capture happens well before the sun actually peeks over the horizon, and there’s nothing worse than watching that glorious color materialize, and subsequently disappear, while you’re still in your car.
2 – Be set up and ready. Weather fronts can pass quickly giving you a very small window of opportunity to capture what can often be fleeting. Sometimes you may have 5-10 minutes or more of the most spectacular sky you’ve ever seen. Other times you’ll be lucky if it lasts 2. If you’re still fumbling around setting up your camera and tripod it could be over before you’re ready.
3 – Filters are your friend. There is likely to be quite a bit of contrast between the brightness of the sky and the brightness of the foreground. There are two ways to deal with this. One is to take multiple photos with one exposed for the sky and one exposed for the foreground then blending them in Photoshop. The other, and my preferred method is the use of graduated neutral density filters (GNDs) while in the field. My two favorite, both from Singh-Ray, are a 3-stop soft edge GND and a Daryl Benson 3-stop reverse GND. Of those two the reverse GND gets the most use because I photograph seascapes so often.
With GND filters you can more closely balance the exposure across the scene which in turn lessens the amount of post processing time per image. Basically, the more right you get in camera the less fixing and fiddling you need to do in the computer.
Your Photographs Are You.
The photographs you make are unique.
No matter the location, they are a piece of you.
Ten, a hundred, a thousand times, regardless of how often a place as been seen through a lens, the pictures you make will be different.
A small part of everything you are, the life you’ve lead up until the moment you press the shutter, will become the photograph.
Find inspiration in others, visit the iconic places, photograph uniquely.
Memories Of 2014
As the New Year begins I like to take a look back and share my favorite images of the previous year.
Are they my best?
That’s too subjective for me to decide. What they are is a selection of favorites from another year long journey looking through a lens. Most you’ve all seen before, some are being shared for the first time. One or two aren’t even all that great, photographically speaking. The stories that go with them as what make them special.
Without wasting another minute of your precious time, in somewhat chronological order, here are some of my favorite memorable moments from 2014.
(For your viewing pleasure, I’ve included a slideshow of these images at the bottom. Enjoy!)
-10°F, let me get my camera!
Happy Hour begins at Three.
Temp., 0°F. Wind, 40mph. View, Awesome!
White-out at sunrise? Fashion shoot!
Seeing in black & white. For the first time.
Getting high with new friends.
Hot air and silhouettes.
Pink after dark, yes please.
Looking for fairies.
Dawn in the wilderness.
Lighting the way.
Blue-white and late day light.
A room with a view.