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There Is Nothing Like Photographing a Sunrise [Part 3]

There Is Nothing Like Photographing a Sunrise [Part 3]

The third and final sunrise in this series was by far the easiest to pull off and the most successful. Once again our setting is on a family vacation, except this time it featured Grandparents. Close your eyes (after the sentence of course) and imagine yourself alone about to enjoy a sunrise all to yourself on a beautiful beach in Cape Cod, MA.

My mother-in-law has been staying at a beautiful cottage village in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts for more than 10 years. Every other year kids are invited and we enjoy a week of delicious seafood, sandy beaches, awesome family time, and at least one night out with free babysitting! The cottages are within walking distance to Ocean Avenue Beach. This is one of the smaller beaches in Cape Cod with only small parking lot and private residences immediately before and after the public beach section. In fact, at the very end of the harbor is the historic and impressive Kennedy House. It is the former home of President John F. Kennedy and his family.

This is the side view of the dock from a previous night. You can see the well illuminated Kennedy House on the left in the distance.

Waking up was easy this time around since the kids had their own room in the cottage. I grabbed all the necessary gear and headed out of the bedroom to make a cup of coffee. While I may have been tired and needing coffee before entering the kitchen, I was immediately wide eyed after a sudden "Morning Mike" greeted me from the living room. Because I was concentrating on my patented ninja sunrise escape and was not thinking about another soul being awake my heart skipped a beat. My father-in-law is used to waking up early from his many years at the plant. His presence also meant extra insurance for if any of my boys decided to wake up. He wished me good luck and I headed out.

The walk to the beach is not far being just over 300 yards. But as I learned a long time ago, everything seems light at the beginning of the boardwalk. The Camera, the bag, the tripod were all very doable. However using a regular cup for my coffee in conjunction with the heavy shifting gear meant I had to sip it or lose it on the way. Next time a to go mug might be the way to go. Always learning right?

Once at the beach there a dock I had in mind that I wanted to shoot. Okay fine, I shot the one dock closest to me and pretty much the only reasonable option. When the subject is obvious, the composition becomes even more important. Anyone can point a camera at the dock. You want your shot to be a bit more than that. I'd rather spend five minutes setting up to get one picture than rushing through setup in a minute to capture five photos with a subpar balance or messed up settings.

Here is the used gear once again for those who missed Part 1 or Part 2 from this sunrise series:

When doing long exposure any camera movement can kill your shot. A sturdy tripod is not as much a suggestion as it is a necessity. Make sure all your adjustment knobs are tight. Check to be sure the ground where you planted tripod feet is steady and won't budge. While you press the trigger, be mindful that there is no vibration remaining from the settings you may have tweaked. If there is strong wind you may not be able to shield, consider doing shorter exposures. When you do start looking to your captured shots on the LCD it is smart to zoom way in and make sure your subject is sharp. Small LCD screens hide camera shake very well when only looking at the thumbnail. This is often a good idea to do this before moving to a new spot or changing compositions.

Have a look at this final product and the video of it being captured. Notice of the water is moving quite a bit in the video but looks like smooth glass in the exposure? Also notice the cloud movement difference in the 121 second exposure from the 181 second photo below it.

121 second exposure f/10 24mm ISO100

181 second exposure f/18 24mm ISO100

As always I like to include a before/after shot so you can see what I start with isn't anything to write home about. It is simply a raw material (no pun intended) or a starting point for my creations. I'd suggest ignoring the editing purists boasting no Photoshop and putting down any photo with a hint of enhanced saturation. You can pick them out by their lack of any makeup, grey sweat pant onesie, and insistence of food with no seasoning. Obviously I tease, but I do find the rants rather amusing. And I have yet to see the internet comment face-off without mention of the legendary Ansel Adams. Who happens to be an example from both sides of the argument somehow.

Featured By Google

I was very psyched that not one but three of my photos from this morning were chosen to be feature by Google on their Chromecast. The criteria for selection is laid out here. It basically boils down to take a great photo, don't have any people or a watermark in it, and share it on Google+. An honor like this may be trivial for some and there is no monetary compensation for the photos being used. The coolest perk was hearing from people that they saw my photo and name on their Chromecast. Also before Google+ did away with view counts on photos two of the feature photos had tallied over 950 million views each!

How can you not love the "S" curve here?

I hope you have enjoyed these sunrise stories. There is nothing stopping anyone from doing this at least once. And don't be afraid to go shoot what has already been done. My idea to shoot a dock from below and straight down the middle is far from unique. It does not have to be though. That is simply today's brainwash of fresh/new/different/viral is the only way. There is plenty of room out there for traditional and well executed in my book. Whatever you decide, make it yours and be proud to be creating.

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Michael B. Stuart is a photographer at Stu Stu Studio in Lewiston, New York. Besides shooting weddings with his wife Nicole his specialties include long exposure, abstract monochrome creations, architecture, and bokeh. Work has been featured online by Adobe, Flickr, Google, and 500px with the most popular photo receiving over 950 million views.

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Love the web URL.... And the "Just say the word" button!

Thanks! I will have to make sure that button survives the work in progress site overhaul :)

I see that you had a shutter release for the photos. When I did my Full Moon photography project, a year's worth, I didn't have a wired or wireless shutter release for my SLR, so I used the self timer for my camera.

You don't 100% need one. For whatever reason, without a shutter release, you're limited to 30 seconds max in my experience. I like going longer, or at least having the option to.