A few weeks back I visited this little rocky beach on the Schoodic Peninsula, and although I got some wonderfully cool blue light on that trip, I couldn’t help wondering what it would have been like if the sunrise had materialized as I had hoped. For that reason, and because I can’t think of a better place to spend some quality time, I returned there this weekend in hopes of getting some of that nice, warm light I had been promised.
Being on the edge of the eastern time zone the sun rises really early here in Maine, even in the first week of May. Scheduled for 5:15 a.m. this past Sunday, that requires a VERY early start to get to where I want to be about an hour before first light. Most people think that arriving at their location by sunrise will give them the best light, but for me, it’s that 45 minutes or so before the sun actually crests the horizon that really rocks. As the new day slowly wakes, there is a peacefulness and tranquility that cannot be found at any other time of day. The air is clean, the light is new, and the sights and sounds specific to such early moments are only available to those who rise early enough to enjoy them.
I don’t usually do this, but I’m showing a series of photographs here that I made that morning as the sun rose. A low bank of clouds both hindered and helped the morning colors develop, and as the day unfurled, I worked what was probably only a 30 yard area for numerous compositions. All of the photographs in this post were made within a twenty minute period before the sun actually rose, and as you can see, the colorful pinks, oranges and yellows that contrasted with the darker rocks hung around for a while. I have my favorites from the morning, but I wanted to show you just some of the many possibilities there were… and I probably didn’t even scratch the surface.
Kicking back and soaking in a scene like this can be an almost spiritual experience, and just because I’m crouched over and peering through the viewfinder, it doesn’t mean I’m not appreciating the moment… in fact, it is quite the opposite. For me, the quest for creating a pleasing photograph means being acutely aware of every element within the landscape. I’m paying attention to the changing light and how it interacts with everything within the scene, how the inclusion or exclusion of different elements impacts the composition, and I am totally absorbing the first sounds of the morning.
There are many similarities in these compositions… sometimes when I visit a scene I already have pretty solid idea of how I am going to try and arrange the elements, and at other times I make lots of photographs, tweaking the composition… moving a couple of feet either way, tipping the camera up or down more, landscape versus portrait orientation, using different focal lengths. I consider this to be, well… both fun, and good practice. Each of these photographs is a blend of two exposures, one for the darker foreground rocks, and one for the brighter sky. Our eyes can easily make the adjustments necessary to fully appreciate the range of light within each of these scenes, but the camera cannot… hence the need to combine exposures (or use a graduated neutral density filter).
One of the coolest things about landscape photography is that if there had been ten other photographers sharing this location with me, each and every one of them would have rendered this scene totally differently. Oh yes, and another cool thing about landscape photography and this particular morning is that there weren’t ten other people there sharing the scene with me. All mine… can you imagine?