Never pack up too early - Photographing a sunrise

Early morning sunrises! Why do I do it to myself, getting up before the crack of dawn?

Before photography became my sole profession I worked in the landscaping industry for years, and waking up early every morning, even whilst it was still dark, wasn't a problem. What I didn't like though was driving down or up the freeway watching the sunrise over the land and not being able to stop and take in its beauty. Autumn and spring is the best time for such sunrises and sunsets, as the high cloud and low temperatures will bring out the best colours. And whilst I was driving along, not being able to stop nor take a photo, all I could do was wish to be somewhere else than stuck in a vehicle.

So now, as I don't work in that industry anymore, I have the time to get out and be in that place I always dreamt about, but there is one problem...

Mother Nature seems to be against me, even after all these years planting hundreds of new trees for her! At least that's what it feels like, as every time I go out for a sunrise photo session the clouds never play nice with me.

I will show you how my time this morning has gone. This wasn't my first rodeo and I'm sure I will punish myself again (tomorrow maybe) with another early start (reminder to self: check weather forecast).

My subject today was this old weathered wharf along Brisbane Waters. I have photographed this bridge a few times before in the early morning, and I'm not giving up until I get the shot I like.

I love how run down the wharf is - hopefully it doesn't fall apart soon and that the council doesn't repair it anytime soon either.


Arriving well before Nautical sunrise, I took this shot to see where we are at.

I was able to tell from this frame that the clouds were going to be a problem (surprised? I'm not).

Well, I was there and set up the camera anyways, so I found my composition and took another frame.


At this time I could see some colour coming from under the cloud cover (maybe it might work out after all).

I waited for the image to show on the display of the camera, and once I could see some more fiery orange from below the clouds, I wasn't happy with my composition. The end of the wharf wasn't showing and I wanted it to be in the picture. So I moved the camera right about 10m and took this frame.

Watching the clock slowly tick by 6.25am (the sun should have risen by now) I changed composition again to allow the big puff of clouds into frame, and I fired off three more frames. By the third frame I was starting to think the weather had done it again - another early morning for nothing.

I packed up. I walked over to the other side of the wharf to get my GoPro camera, waiting to see if the images were anything of use, and 5-10 minutes went by. When I looked back for a check, the clouds had parted and were showing colour.


I quickly scrambled to get everything back out, ran back to were I was before and shot this frame. Good but still not the best.

Lesson learnt: never pack up early!

I wanted something more, and before I could check the display, I was running back to my bag for my filters. I needed to show movement in the clouds, and for that I wanted to use my ND 10stop filter coupled with a GND 1.2 soft filter. I opened the shutter up and let all the colours soak through to the sensor of the camera.


I know I shouldn't pack up early and that mistake will not be made again. Am I happy with the final frame? Well, kinda.

Will I wake up early tomorrow and do the same thing? Yeah I'm sure I can get more colours than that.

Plus, there is another subject I would like to photograph just another 200m down the path.


My final image. Canon Eos 5D mk3 ISO-100 F/14 @186sec.

I may name this one "Never pack up too early".



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