One Sunrise-One Location-Many Different Pictures
Sometimes, just anchoring on a location and letting light happen is the best way to get several amazing shots.
I was shooting in rural North Dakota over the July 4th weekend. Sunrise, being one of my favorite subjects, was one of my targets. The funny thing about a sunrise shoot is that the action begins long before the actual disk of the sun appears. It also continues long after the sun clears the horizon. This shot was taken about a half hour before the sun appeared.
In the next shot, we are about 15 minutes from the sun’s appearance. The clouds on the horizon are lit by the long wavelength red end of the spectrum. Here the shot is about the sunrise glow and the soft foreground. Everything but the clouds is bathed in ambient reflected light from the sky dome.
If you wait for it, the sun will appear kissing the horizon on its way to fields of blue. You can actually see the red retreat and the blue begin to dominate the lower cloud-filled sky. The warmly bathed foreground starts to gain highlights and shadows. The disk of the sun draws your eye in.
Later, as the sun clears the horizon, the light becomes less red. Yellow dominates the foreground. Blue pushes all but the yellows from the sky. Shadows become stronger, highlights brighter and colors more vibrant. The golden glow is upon us. This shot was taken about 12 minutes after first sun.
The subject is the same in all four shots. It is an abandoned farm at sunrise. The same barn appears in every shot. Though the vantage changes from shot to shot, it is essentially one scene. Apart from my lateral movements along the fence line, the biggest change comes from the passage of time and the sun driving night into day.
I have been on shoots where the photographers show up 10 minutes before and leave 10 minutes after the sun crosses the horizon. Sometimes they miss the best stuff on both sides of the dawn. Sunrise is a two-hour affair at minimum. My strategy is to scout the location the day before and arrive an hour before dawn. When the sun comes, I am prepared to move and shoot quickly. I don’t abandon a sunrise until the sun is at least 10 diameters into the sky.
If you will wait for it, the sunrise will give you many different looks to the same scene.
Rikk Flohr © 2010