Sunrise Photos, January 20

I’m still working on my photography skills, part of my lifelong learning.  There was a storm last night, after two months with little rain in the Bay Area.  Yesterday, before the storm, there were clouds at sunrise.  Here are some sunrise pictures, techniques used, and tips for sunrise photos.

I like sunrise and sunset pictures with red clouds.  When scouting for red clouds, I look for clouds on the horizon, with the sun over the horizon.  Here’s what I think happens.  At the proper time, red light from the sun is refracted by the atmosphere, painting the clouds red, while the other part of the spectrum is refracted less, thereby missing the clouds.  With only the red light on the clouds, the clouds are red.

A half hour before sunrise Friday, I noticed a red glow on the horizon.  I set up the DLSR on a tripod by a window facing east.  I took some test pictures and found that an exposure compensation of -1 2/3 EV darkened the yard and still showed the clouds and sky.  I set the aperture to f/8 and adjusted the exposure (1/6 sec.) to produce the desired exposure compensation.  In the first photo, the clouds on the horizon are red, and the bottom edge of the clouds in the center start to turn red.

red sky at sunrise
red horizon at sunrise

Two minutes later, the sun shines on the bottoms of the clouds in the center of the picture, showing their texture.

red sky 2
red bottoms for clouds in center

A minute later the sky is brighter and you can see rays of red sunlight.

red sky 3
red rays of light

The moon was up, and I wanted to capture it, shining faintly.  I added a circular polarizer to darken the sky.  The moon is a crescent in the upper right hand corner.  I kept the aperture at f/8 and set the exposure to 1/60 second to retain the -1 2/3 EV exposure compensation.  This picture was taken 5 minutes before sunrise.

sunrise with moon
sunrise with moon

btw, during postprocessing I adjusted the white balance to daylight, enhancing the contrast between the lit and unlit portions of the clouds.  My camera was set to automatic color balance.

Here are some tips for sunrise photos.  If folks have suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

  • Get ready a half hour before sunrise.  I see more dramatic sunrises in the winter, when the sun rises later.
  • Use a tripod, or else take several shots
  • Set white balance to daylight or cloudy
  • Identify the key features (clouds and sky) and do some test shots to figure out the exposure compensation to focus on the key features.  I underexposed -1 2/3 EV to black out my backyard, which would detract from the clouds and sky.
  • Use a circular polarizer to darken the sky and enhance contrast with the clouds and moon
  • Look at your photos and figure out how to improve

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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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