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.