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Photographing Sunrises: behind the scenes and worthiness (for getting out of a warm bed)

June 2017

#sunrise #sunrisephotography #landscapephotography 

The thought of getting up super early hurts my brain! so sunrises are not something I do a lot of. If I am going to do it, it has to be on a day that I have nothing else critical on as I will need bucketloads of coffee and/or a nanna nap later! Can you get coffee in a bucket? Maybe I could be onto something here??

Predicting when there is going to be something worthwhile in the sky is tricky, you can narrow it down with weather checks and predictions but unfortunately there is no hard and fast rule in the tropics.
Even though the wet season is officially over, wet weather and clouds are a constant menace in the way of a beautiful morning sky. I actually prefer a bit of cloud, without it is boring, but the whispy disseminated high cloud is preferable to the low thick lumps that form just above the horizon - these are OK for when the sun does rise, to help hide the bright light and you can get some great light rays shining through. 

I check the weather forecast the night before for the area I want to shoot at, then recheck it as I am going to bed to see it hasn't changed, set my alarm for at least 60 mins before sunrise time plus another 20-30 mins drive time AND getting coffee into the system, an essential item.

In the case of getting silhouettes, and here in the tropics with all our great palm lined beaches, you need a still morning as well. 

This one was a 4 sec exposure as there was a little wind and I wanted the palm tree silhouette fairly sharp as well as long enough to get a smooth rolling in surfline. 
f9 ISO 200 
Taken 45 mins before sunrise 

Be careful not to bump that ISO up too much when it is so dark,  if there are no moving subject matter to worry about, do longer exposures instead. 

If you are planning a sunrise shoot somewhere you haven't been before or don't know that well, it is worthwhile "doing a reccy" prior so on the morning you can just drive straight to where you need to go and setup without wasting time trying to decide where to be... in the dark.
Another reason you need a torch once set up, is you need to put your focus on manual mode as it may be too dark for your camera to focus automatically and set your focus ring to infinity. Not all lenses have this ability.

I suggest getting there in the dark as first light can be quite beautiful, sometimes up to an hour before, you can get a gorgeous red hue on the horizon, and there may still be stars out, love this time of day when night and day meet. Good time for silhouettes. May need an exposure longer than 30 seconds here. So you will need a torch, tripod, cable release or timer release mode,  and don't forget the sunnies for when the sun does appear.  I find the best time is 20-30 minutes prior to sunrise. 

This one was 55-60minutes before sunrise
10 sec exposure but you can see this was too long with the wind blowing the palms
f4 to let in as much light as possible
1000 ISO to get in some of the stars still visible.

Another thing to be mindful of is to keep your horizons straight, there is a grid function on most cameras which allows you to line up your camera with the horizon easily, saves time cropping and straightening later.

Finally, it's nice to get something in the foreground if you can, like his early morning walker, balanced with a bit of palm. It adds interest to the image but also adds depth.

Once that sun is up, you will need to change your settings dramatically. 
This shot is fairly meh compared to some of the colours we can get so I will be back chasing a better one yet. 

1/80th sec 
f11 50 ISO
Taken a few minutes after sunrise as one of my last shots for the morning.