in focus

sunrise, best time of the day!

sunrise at hengistbury head

For several months before capturing this image, I had been heavily involved in a major project for a company, shooting hundreds of products under lights in a white tent, so it was particularly pleasing to finally get out with my camera for some personal work. With a series of Landscape Photography Workshops kicking off later in the month, it was time to head out and double check potential venues. The last thing I need is to arrive at a venue, and find workmen rebuilding my foreground interest or blotting out the planned views!

I was hoping to carry out these recce’s with some photography buddies as I’d not seen them for ages, but they were unable to make it through one thing and another, which left me on my own for this outing. It’s a shame I was all alone, but it really did strike home to me why I prefer sunrises over shooting at any other time of day!!

Arriving at my parking space over an hour before sunrise, I quickly changed into my welly boots, pulled on my woolly hat and strapped my tripod on to my backpack – and was very glad I’d decided on full winter gear as it was -3oC despite being in British Summertime!

As my intended shoot venue features Sites Of Special Scientific Interest, the approach road is closed to traffic during nighttime hours to dissuade party goers and protect the wildlife. While this adds a mile or so to my walk, this gives extra time to take in the lovely clean atmosphere of pre-dawn times, and take a good look at the slowly brightening sky.

Having checked my usual handful of weather forecasts the day before, I was expecting / hoping for a weather front to be passing over around sunrise. Despite the chances of getting rained on, passing weather fronts can give some very dramatic light.

As I walked towards the beach, I could see clear skies above the peninsula I was heading for, irregular but heavy looking clouds above my head – but a bank of cloud on the horizon. As the sun was due to rise right through this distant bank, this could well and truly scupper any decent light as it would be completely blocked.

Thankfully, as I arrived at the beach, the horizon was clearing, so my chances of a decent sunrise had increased significantly. Now, the question I get asked the most as a photographer popped into my head; why are most of my images sunrises and not sunsets? It’s days like this! Beautiful clean air, gently lapping waves, crisp clean sand and nobody around to get in the shot or need excluding from a shot. It really is something special to be stood in such a beautiful location, knowing only you will see what transpires.

I quickly set myself up mounting the camera on my tripod and fitted filter holder, cable release etc., and got ready for the sun to creep above the horizon. Just as it rose, I was rewarded with a few minutes of bright pinks and reds and made some images. However, while I captured some pleasing colours reflected in low surf, what really caught my attention was the gloriously warm light creeping up the beach to the distant beach huts. Having already checked out possibilities while waiting for the sun, I knew just where to head for, so decamped to the dunes.

The light hitting the huts was strong and warm, so all I had to do was arrange my composition. Having found this low dune earlier, I used the grass to give foreground interest, define the location and act as a sense of scale for the distant huts. To exaggerate the lovely light more, and really highlight the huts / beach / grass, I opted for a 0.6 Neutral Density filter. This helped to darken the sky further, and make the beach and huts come alive with colour. I also used my Circular Polariser to saturate colours a little and control the bright reflections coming off the windows.

Exposure information:
1/4 sec at f/11, ISO100

Filters used:
0.6 Neutral Density Graduated plus Circular Polariser.

Post processing:
RAW file processed in Adobe Lightroom with small Exposure tweak and Contrast boost.

To see a larger version of this image, please click here.


Back to 'in focus' >>