Photography Tip: Photographing in morning light

I hate mornings.  Let me clarify, I hate early mornings.  Which is an issue for a nature photographer.  Peter tries every persuasion technique to get me out of bed on cold, dark mornings, hours before the sun comes up (and it is usually 1 1/2 -2 hours because the best light is around 30 minutes before sunrise and it seems to take us an hour to get to wherever it is we need to go).  So we get there (in plenty of time in my opinion), I’m ready, and the amazing light is over in minutes.  Now what?  Its usually too early for breakfast, I’m awake so going back to sleep is not going to happen….

We recently found ourselves in this situation in New Zealand.  We photographed the grand landscape at sunrise; the lake, the church, the flowers, and the mountains.  Once the sun came over the horizon the light became harsher.  We decided to keep trying to find compositions and making images (because one of our biggest challenges was finding a place open for breakfast before 8:30).  By moving ourselves in different positions relative to the sun we were able to make some different types of images.

Tip 1:  Ditch the grand landscape and focus on the intimate landscape.  Focus in on the bare essentials.  Ask yourself, what is appealing to me about what I am looking at?  Then edit out everything else.

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Tip 2:  Close your aperture down and try to capture a sun star.  Use an object to partially block the sun and minimize lens flare

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Tip 3:  Go for a retro washed-out look.  Over-exposure your image and try to capture the feeling of the situation.  For me its usually the warmth the sun brings as it rises.

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Tip 4:  Know when its time to stop.  Trying these tips can buy you an extra 30 minutes of shooting time.  When the light becomes too harsh go forage for food and coffee, and then take a nap.


  1. Michael Andrew Just

    I’m not a morning person either. But I’m am going to try to get up Thursday morning to photograph sunrise at Bryce Canyon. They are getting some more snow tonight but it should be clear at sunrise. I live about 2 hours away so i need to leave at 5a.m. That’s really early…….

      1. Anonymous

        Hi Michael – I had a chance to photograph snow at Bryce a few years ago – it was a serene and beautiful sight. I also remember it being really cold. Have fun, and enjoy

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