Many of us travel when we can – even more wish they had the time and resources to travel extensively. We want to see new things, to have new experiences, to feel a sense of awe at this world we live in. And yet, despite that desire, we all too often overlook the wonders all around us – the magic that gets hidden behind the clouds of familiarity.
With this retirement, (my fourth) I find that I’ve reverted to my “normal” circadian rhythm. That is, I get up at noon and work until eight the next morning, (repeat, rinse, etc.) I’ve never been an early riser, but I find my current lifestyle has given me a new pleasure that doesn’t require travelling any farther than my balcony.
My discovery? Sunrise.
Do a Google search for sunsets and you’ll find literally over a billion results. Click on images and you’ll find many, many beautiful dramatic photos. Do the same for sunrise and you’ll find about half as many.
Even more so, you’ll find that the image selection changes. Sunsets are dominated by clouds – the sun just provides the illumination. Sunrise photos are mostly of the sun peeking up at the horizon. But – that is exactly backwards from my own experience as a photographer.
Great sunset photos are difficult because you’ve got to have the cooperation of significant weather. The best times are after a mid afternoon thunderstorm that’s dissipated leaving a sky of scattered clouds that the sun can shine under. My best guess is that I get something like that about once a month. Either there’s no storm because a high pressure area has moved in, or considering my location near the Gulf of Mexico, the thunderstorms are just getting wound up. Winter’s worse, as it brings days of continuous cloud cover.
But many, many more sunrises are spectacular because the meteorological conditions are different. As an example and a test, as I write this, a cold front has moved through leaving a perfectly clear sky. I just stepped out to check that Orion is still hanging in the sky and there’s not even a wisp of a cloud to be seen above the golf course. Since this is going to be a typical morning, we’ll see what sunrise brings us.
But three hours later, here’s what I found:
What happened? All the moisture “has risen.” It’s the same phenomenon that produces morning fogs. Soon, the heat of the sun will “burn off” the clouds (as it would similarly burn off the morning fog,) but while they last, I found quite a treat. As a bonus, notice the sun pillar above the rising sun. An hour later, the clouds are all gone leaving nothing but a clear blue winter sky.
While you have to work at capturing a comparatively dramatic sunset, most mornings produce a memorable sunrise. If you look at a time lapse satellite video of the cloud patterns, you’ll usually find a moving line of clouds right in front of the sunrise terminator. Because the heat of the day has kept the moisture “burned off” there is no similar situation for the sunset terminator.
One last thing – photographers rave about the “golden hour” before sunset. It’s roughly the hour before sunset where the daylight is softer and has shifted to the red end of the spectrum given a “golden glow” to their photographs. It’s a time of diffused lighting, less contrast, warmer shadows, less overexposure, that really makes photos “pop.”
But there are just the same conditions available every morning. It’s sometimes called the “blue hour” if it’s right before sunrise, although after the sun comes up, the same golden hour conditions exist. Try some shots in the blue hour, twenty minutes or so before official sunrise, of well lit buildings, etc. You can see some great results on Wikipedia under blue hour. The blue hour will produce some amazing “night photographs.”
If you enjoy photography, give the mornings a try. All you’ve got to do is get up early, (or stay up all night.)