Chasing Dawn A non-morning person’s aTtempt to Capture a sunrise

I'm not a morning person...

So the idea of getting out of bed around 5:30 was initially a challenging one. It took me a little bit to convince myself that it would be worth it. The reason? It was the only way I would be in time to photograph that elusive morning light.

Being a late riser is not really an option when you are a photographer who focuses on landscapes and wildlife. I was so tired that I forgot to even make coffee. As I stumbled to the car, I began to question the wisdom of a non-morning person such as myself attempting to do anything that required coordination or thought at this ungodly hour. However, I had come this far and while my body was demanding I return to the warmth and comfort of my bed, my camera was beckoning me towards the cool sand, yet to be heated by the midday sun.

When in doubt, follow the footsteps of those before you...

I planted my camera bag and sandles by a sign that I could not read, as it was still too dark out. Across the calm seas, the sun had just cracked through the clouds, as if I was staring at an active volcano in the distance.

The sun ignited the cloud line in a blood red glow

Shooting in the morning can prove challenging for a technical perspective. Don’t be afraid of black shadows, as they add mood to a shot. Focus on capturing the colors. Your exposures do not need to be super long, and with a D500, you can shoot at a lower ISO and bring detail out front the shadows in post.

Stepping up to the water line, the cool ocean washes over my toes. As I crouch down, my Nikon D500 and iPhone X at the ready, I settle in for an amazing show.

It is easy to always keep your camera and eyes facing the horizon, but don’t forget to look around... or down! The rippling water was beautifully colored by the rising sun.

I’m used to shooting sunsets, but I have to say, the array of colors is much greater when the sun is coming up. The blues, reds, and yellows are not as pronounced as a sunset, but they have a larger gamut and blend together to create these amazing paintings.

For anyone who thinks you need super high-end equipment to take a great picture, I can assure you, such is not the case anymore. I was actually shooting with both my Nikon D500, as well as my iPhone X, using the camera in Lightroom to capture RAW photos.

The early bird catches the worm... or fish in this case

Not all life needs coffee to wake up, such as these pelicans. They were gliding along the water, scanning for their breakfast just beneath the waves. They were truly magestic.

...well, most of the time.

“Hold my beer, I got this!”

Slow motion is a wonderful, if frustrating way to capture ocean waves. The trick is finding the right exposure, and using a tripod... the latter of which I did not have with me.

Interestingly enough, a couple of days after I did this shoot, Adobe announced a new feature in beta for Lightroom CC users who have iPhones: long exposure. “No tripod required!” I was both excited by the announcement, and exasperated at the timing. One week, Adobe. One. Week.

As the sun came breaking through the clouds and those first real rays of daybreak hit you, it can be a true wake up call, better than any alarm clock, and far less jarring. The water and sand begin to warm, as the world seems to come to life, as if the sun was its pot of coffee, beckoning it to rise from its slumber.

Would I do it again? Yes, absolutely. Would I recommend others do it? Absolutely, especially if you are not a morning person. Blankets may warm the body, but getting to see the amazing spectacle Mother Nature puts on at the beginning of every day can warm far more than your toes.

So, for you non-morning people who wait for their to be four digits showing on the clock before rolling out of bed, pack your camera bag the night before, set your alarms for early, set your coffee maker timer, get up, go, and enjoy the incredible show.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find there is a little bit of heaven in that ungodly hour after all.

Created By
Michael Brodt

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