3 Tips for Shooting at Sunrise.
Ahhh...Sunrise. My favorite time of day. I'd imagine it would be everyone's favorite time of day if it were easier to get up in the morning. The only thing harder than simply getting up to see the sunrise would be getting up and driving out to a location to take pictures of the sunrise. That's why I thought it would be cool to share my top three tips for catching this elusive time of day!
TIP #1: WAKE UP!
This seems a bit silly, I know, but waking up is easily the hardest part of the whole process. When taking everything into account, you'll have to factor in a number of things such as drive time and the fact that most of the colorful sunrises happen anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes before the sun actually breaks over the horizon (even more so if you're in a valley). What this means is that you'll need to wake up at least an hour before sunrise if your location is close by.
To ensure that I get up on time, I use an app called Alarmy. In order to turn off this alarm, I have to take my phone upstairs into my kitchen and scan a barcode in my pantry. By the time I do all of this, my mind is no longer thinking of going back to the cozy bed and thinking about food and coffee. You can also set the "Alarm Off" setting to math problems, taking pictures of a household items, shaking your phone x number of times, etc. It has upped my morning game 300%.
TIP #2: Plan Ahead
Reducing any prep time in the morning will help eliminate any excuse your tired brain is going to try to formulate when you wake up. That is why I make sure my camera gear and other necessities are packed and ready to go the night before.
Planning ahead also involves having an idea of what the weather will be like as well as the location. If possible, scout the location during the day sometime before you go out to shoot. It can be quite difficult to find a composition in the twilight leading up to sunrise. Scouting locations in harsh midday light is actually the key to shooting in any situation. Knowing your composition ahead of time can help you fine tune your good composition rather than scrambling to find a composition while the good light is peaking.
Find a weather app to help you predict the conditions. Some good ones worth looking into are Clear Outside and The Photographer's Ephemeris. Clear outside will tell you just about all the weather conditions you need to know while TPE will show you the exact positioning of the sunrise.
Tip #3: Know the conditions you're looking for
As you begin to shoot sunrise more often, you'll start to realize how the light works in the morning a bit better. Are you looking to shoot some early golden light? Well you'll probably need a pretty clear sky for that. There are tons of ways to shoot sunrise but I think what everyone really wants is that "explosion of color" type of sunrise. The recipe for these are mid to high altitude clouds with no low clouds on the horizon. Luckily, Clear Outside tells you the percent chance of all these types of clouds. Since using the app, I haven't been let down once. It can be pretty easy to make an excuse like "the sunrise won't even be good" when you're just waking up. Knowing it will be good makes it that much easier to get out in the field.
Above all else, just get up and get out there. If you have to return to a spot multiple times to get it right, putting in the effort will yield the best results. There is currently a shot that I've been trying to nail all year. I have the framing I want and just haven't had the right conditions yet. I'll be going attempt number ten the next time I am out there.
Here are some of my favorite sunrise shots that I've taken. Note that not every shot is shooting towards the sun with vividly colored clouds. There are quite a few front-lit scenes with clear skies in this small gallery. Enjoy!
I will end this blog post with a quote as I have been doing...