Travel Photography Tip: Shooting Sunrise!
Finishing off May’s theme of Shooting Sunrises, we’re thrilled to have Tomasz Huczek here to run us through his tips for getting the best results. Enjoy!
Rich landscapes and boisterous seas are the main subjects of Tomasz Huczek’s photographs. He presents a vibrant world showcasing nature at its most beautiful. His passion for photography was discovered after moving to the sunny Cyprus where exotic environment gave him an impulse to creatively capture the beauty of surroundings. He believes that the best photographs happen only at the right place and time and he is always patiently waiting for that moment. Although he works in works in software engineering, he cannot imagine life without his camera.
Determination and Consistency
For me going out shooting is like going hunting. I never know what will happen, and many times I won’t even take the camera out of my bag. Getting up very early, reaching the location with all the equipment, waiting for the sun to appear, only to discover that the weather is hopeless, the sky is colourless or the rain makes it impossible to shoot might be very discouraging. The only solution to finally get the shot of your dreams is to keep on trying.
As well, getting to the same location over and over again also presents the same place in a variety of light situations that make each sunrise a unique experience. All the pictures below have been taken almost at the same spot:
Here is what can be done to improve our chances of getting the ideal shot on the day you show up and conditions are perfect.
Photography Equipment for Sunrise
This one is a must. Without a stable setup it’s close to impossible to take a decent, good quality shot without noise. Especially when the light is soft and we need longer shutter speeds to expose the picture correctly.
Filters are not required but very useful. Polarisers increase saturation and make colours richer and also remove all sorts of reflections. ND filters help to achieve dreamy blurred look by extending the exposure to even a few minutes. My very long exposures were taken with times up to 10 minutes using 10 stop ND filter.
Another very handy tool. Required for long exposures above 30 seconds as most of the cameras have an exposure limit controlled by internal timer. To overcome that, **bulb** mode needs to be used and with cable release the exposure time can be precisely controlled. However, it’s a good practice to use it for all kinds of shots as it helps to reduce vibrations and camera movement.
This one is particularly needed when taking long exposures with strong filters. When the light is limited from the lens side using NDs, it’s crucial to make sure it won’t come from anywhere else. Uncovered viewfinder during 40-second exposure will most likely ruin the shot.
This one is particularly important for early hours, when it’s still relatively dark and light metering system might give the wrong values. For the long exposures, manual mode is inevitable – camera won’t be able to help us out with internal metering system.
Manual white balance
If the photo is taken in RAW then the white balance might be corrected in post-process, but it’s a good idea to set it to manual. All the pictures will be consistent and it certainly helps with the merging of different shots for high dynamic range photographs.
Disabled AF during a shot
This has happened to me so many times and I still forget about it from time to time. After framing a picture and setting the focus, disable AF. In the low light or with the ND filter on the lens, the focusing system of the camera will get confused when you half-press the shutter or use a cable release.
No VR, IS
All the stabilisation systems are meant to be used for handheld situations. When the camera is on a tripod it won’t help, additionally it can engage the system to kick in when something moves within the frame ruining the shot.
Weather is very important but often times very unpredictable. Clouds make a huge difference because they reflect the light, make it softer and that is where all the colour is absorbed. I usually check the forecast when I plan to go out for a sunrise. If the location is close and it doesn’t take much time to get there I always look through the window in the morning to see the sky. If it’s completely clean I will stay at home – the sunrise will most likely be dull and colourless. Even the smallest clouds make a difference – have a look at the photo below:
Both pictures were taken the same morning. The clouds on the left side make a huge difference.
When we have done everything we could, there is one last factor that comes into play – luck. Unfortunately we cannot do much about that. We just need to be in the right place at the right time, which takes us right back to the beginning: determination, and consistency.