Create your own sunrise light with white balance

How frustrating is it, to wake up in the dead of night, drive an hour, face freezing temperatures, only to be faced with a bald blue sky? Photographers dream of a colorful sky filled with warm shades of pinks, oranges, and yellows, even better if all that color is bouncing off of dramatic clouds. I have found the odds are often against me when it comes to beautiful sunrises, so I make lemonade.

Peter recently hauled me out of bed on a freezing morning, cajoled me into a cold car to drive an hour in the dark. He wanted to photograph the Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park at sunrise. When we could finally see something in the sky, it was bald and blue. I decided to take matters into my own hands by changing my white balance to the Shade and Cloudy settings. Some think this is “cheating” because I was not capturing the scene “exactly” as it appeared. I view photography as an art, a way to create something, a form of self-expression. Now, Peter on the other hand would say I cheated…..

Sunrise in Joshua Tree – Auto White Balance
Sunrise in Joshua Tree – Shade White Balance
Sunrise in Joshua Tree – Cloudy White Balance


  1. Seattle Park Lover

    It is a cheat, but a very minor one. I have seen clear skies that are the colors of your shade and cloudy images, so there’s nothing unnatural about them. They just aren’t an exact representation of that specific day.

    Though to be honest, as a fan of purpley blue twilight colors, I like the auto white balance version as much as the others.

  2. pamphotography

    Thank you for commenting! It is an ongoing debate in our house around how much license you can take with an image and still have it be an authentic representation. I love blue light too – my favorite is as a background to twinkling lights of a city.

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