lessons learned about photographing sunrise

I got up in the dark so I could take my camera to the beach for sunrise. I'd woken several times during the night to argue with myself on the subject, and turned my alarm off twice. But when I woke finally at 5.30am, I decided it wasn't too cold after all and I should just do it. I'm glad I did, as I learned a great deal. (Please keep in mind I am still just an amateur at photography. These "lessons" are tongue in cheek and not meant to actually teach anyone.)

1. Don't trust the meterological service.

I knew this already regarding weather forecasts, but now I know it about their daylight calculations also. If they say sunrise is at 7.30am, they're talking to ordinary people. Those with cameras will benefit from understanding that dawn itself happens at least half an hour before sunrise. By the time the sun actually breaks over the horizon, most of the glory is gone. I left home in a rush when I saw it the sky was lightening, and ran all the way so I could catch the best light.




2. Take an umbrella.

Again, don't trust met service. It really can't be said often enough. (Also, an umbrella can be a handy tool if you want to drape a shawl over something and swoop it around looking like an absolute idiot in the service of photography.) At least rain showers add diversity to your pictures. And I think a cloudy day is always more interesting to photograph than one with clear, bland skies.




3. Change your perspective.

I am short, therefore am always reaching my camera as high as it will go to create more depth of contrast in my images. I also climb onto benches and lie on the sand. Yes, elderly couples strolling the beach laugh at me. But I laugh at myself too, so that's okay.




4. Have a good camera.

The photos in this post are not the best I took, I am saving those for something else. They're also not very good in general. I was frequently frustrated by what my camera could not do. I think the people who say "your camera doesn't matter" are those who have expensive, high-quality ones. What the machine itself can't manage, you can sometimes achieve in editing. For these pictures, I changed the levels (basically affecting the contrast) and increased saturation slightly to replicate what I saw with my eye. But nothing can really overcome the basic technical incompetencies of the camera and its lens.




5. Don't wait for sunrise.

When it comes, it's heart-stopping to watch. I stood for a long time with my camera quiet, just feeling the sacredness of the moment. Photographing it was less fulfilling. All the rich, plump colours had gone. Of course, my little camera couldn't really capture the magnificence of light emerging from low, ocean-coloured clouds. But even with a good camera I think I would have felt like the fabulousness of the morning was over by then. That time between first light and sunrise is a poem of love and anticipation.





click on photographs to enlarge them

linking with skywatch





27 comments:

  1. Stunning reflections of light on the waters. And the shine on the waters highlights the sky colours beautifully.

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  2. These pictures are stunning. You did a fantastic job! Thanks for sharing this gift.

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  3. Oh, just wow! These images are sublime! Thankyou for the tips Sarah, I'm someone who would desperately like to improve my photography, but don't like reading manuals and specialist sites. I just glaze over. So it's good to read someone talking about taking photos in a language that is recognisably human, and relatable. x

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  4. What stunning photos, Sarah. I love them!

    And yes, the camera DOES matter. I believe that it is possible to create beautiful images with any sort of camera, but lovely photos are far more difficult to achieve with substandard equipment. My photographs improved dramatically when I acquired a new lens this past October.... I couldn't believe the difference it made. Photography is very much an art form, and you could give an outstanding camera to someone with no eye for pleasing visual aesthetics, and their pictures would be awful. BUT if you do have an eye for pretty things & appealing photo composition, professional equipment can be so very helpful. I'm saving up for my next camera upgrade at the moment, but it's still going to be a while before I can afford it, unfortunately. I can't wait to see the wonderful images you capture with yours someday. <3 xx

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  5. really beautiful photos - i enjoyed reading your advice on how you did it.

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  6. Hey, some great (and funny!) advice here! And yes, I'm often disappointed that my expensive camera and lenses can't capture what my eyes see with regard to sunrises and sunsets! I do a lot of editing to try to capture what my eye saw.

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  7. Sunrises are magical, aren't they?
    Lovely photos :)

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  8. Hey, very well done. You live near the ocean! That's the best place to take photos. I also live near the ocean in Vancouver, actually only 9 streets away from the beach, but it's too city and have to drive out quite a way to get just ocean. Missing the ocean now in rural Oxfordshire. Also missing the mountains. It's flat as a pancake where we live, but that makes for beautiful field sunrises. By the way, completely agreeing about the weathermen; they lie like a rug!!!

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    1. Actually, I don't like the ocean, and I find it a really boring place to take photos. I prefer meadows, gardens, people. But I was there today on a photography scouting mission, mainly because of the sunrise. :-)

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  9. Wow - they are amazing - the sky changes so quickly at sunrise and sunset I love the skies in winter where there always seems so much going on - but you are right, most of the time the camera just does not capture what you can see with your eyes.

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  10. Awesome sunrise captures. You are so right about being ready a half hour before the sun rises. Great post, thanks for sharing. Have a happy weekend!

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  11. all good advices, the weather really is very fickle and yes, laying on the sand to capture a sunrise is
    is perfectly normal to me - one must try every position if necessary. plus a tripod would also be a good thing to have though I don't know how steady sand is when it comes to tripods.

    I've tried to photograph sunsets as I'm never early enough for sunrises but the result wasn't all that great not when you compare it with your own eyes as I think the eye is always a bit clouded in a way, it's probably why the results is never what we would imagined.

    I like the third shot the best. they are all look good to me, amateur or not.

    hope you have lovely day.

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  12. Magnificent!

    But "naughty" you, for saying anything disparaging, about your present camera. -wink-

    And lucky you, to be able to run to the ocean, and view such a fantastic thing. Catch the whole evolving magnificent happening. Lucky, lucky, lucky you!!!!

    Gentle hugs,
    Tessa

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  13. Stunning pictures! I love the inky plume of blue sky in the first picture!

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  14. WOW, they are all so very beautiful!

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  15. Kudos for the wonderful set of images and interesting comments! My favorite is the 4th one down...the multiple reflections come all the way down to the bottom of the pic..great capture..

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  16. Thank you everyone for such kind and encouraging comments. Now I wish I could show you the really good images I got! :-)

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  17. absolutely beautiful
    and
    i enjoyed the commentary ;-)

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  18. beautiful collection of sunset images. the first one looks very moody but gorgeous.

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  19. Really beautiful! Your pictures are wonderful. Reminds me of watching the sun rise over the ocean where I used to live as a kid. Being present to sunrises and sunsets is something so special.

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  20. Really beautiful! Your pictures are wonderful. Reminds me of watching the sun rise over the ocean where I used to live as a kid. Being present to sunrises and sunsets is something so special.

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  21. Really beautiful! Your pictures are wonderful. Reminds me of watching the sun rise over the ocean where I used to live as a kid. Being present to sunrises and sunsets is something so special.

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  22. Your pictures are fantastic! And I love all the great advice. That part was entertaining as well as informative. :-) Stunning shots! I don't know how many times I have set an alarm to get up to see a meteor shower or the space station fly over, or a lunar eclipse...now I just stay in bed. I know I'm going to turn the alarm off anyway, so why even set it. :-) I think you were well-rewarded for your earlier rise!

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  23. You've taken my breath away. Pish posh about them not being very good photographs. They're stunning!

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