The Quintessential Sequential Sunrise

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In the realm of Geekdom, I believe that I have one of the more peculiar obsessions. I enjoy getting up early in the morning, say 05:00, and looking out at the sky. If it looks very black over town, that is a promising portent. If it looks orangish, that means that there are low clouds over the peninsula and the sunrise will probably be a flop. I go and fire up the computer and start the day’s work. At 05:30, I have another look. If I can see any colour, I make my preparations for the morning’s quest for The Quintessential Sequential Sunrise.

The preparations consist of the following, which must be performed in less than ten minutes: (1) get Canon G-11 and attach to cheap tripod, (2) pick the appropriate selection of neutral density and polarising filters from the filter box (3) retrieve a Fanta Orange soda from the bar fridge and slip it into a cozy, (4) grab a folding chair from the overflowing junk room, (5) check to make sure that I have my pants on, (6) stumble outside in the dark with no light (don’t want to ruin my night vision), (7) sit down and wait for the action to begin. It’s not that much different from going to a footie game, except for the part about pants. I’m sure that it’s quite acceptable  to show up at a footie game sans pants.

And, this why all the fuss. Yeah, baby, this is what I’m talkin’ about:That’s the moon up there in the corner. It was so dark at  05:41 that I couldn’t see the controls on the camera; I had to work by feel. Fortunately, I have great hands. The shot above was a fifteen second exposure. This long exposure time has the effect of turning the water into a mirror. The town lights are very bright compared to the sky.

Four minutes later and I have moved to what it becoming my favourite spot. I like the way the trees frame the sky.This is still at fifteen seconds, so the water of the harbour is as shiny as mercury. Do you see the dog in the sky? He’s black and he’s facing toward the left. Or maybe it’s a bull? What’s it doing up there?

At 6:02 the sky is getting much brighter. This is when it gets fast and furious. I now have less than a ten minute window to catch the best of the sunrise:The sun is still well below the horizon, but it is beginning to light up the clouds much brighter. Note that you can barely see the lights of town. The sky is probably several hundred times brighter than it was a few minutes ago.

At 06:06 the sun’s light is being broken up into beams shining between clouds near the visible horizon. This accounts for the radiating pattern of light and dark:This is only four minutes after the previous shot. We are now nearing the end of the show.

Two minutes later, at 06:08, the display it pretty much over:The colours will fade quickly now as the sunrise moves into its second phase when the shiny orb pops above the horizon.

What follows is simultaneously less visually interesting and more difficult for the photographer. As the sun rises, the saturation of the colours will become more washed out by the intensity of the light and the contrast ratio of the brightness surrounding the sun compared to the rest of the scene will overwhelm nealy any camera that an individual human can afford.

I suppose that the very rich might be able to afford such cameras, but I’m sure that they have more profitable things to do with their time. Anyway, they would simply hire someone like to do it for them.

If there are any of the very rich out there reading this (seems unlikely to me), keep in mind that I’m very serious about my art and I work cheap.

If I’ve hooked you on sequential sunrises, you can see more of mine here, here, and here.

That should keep you occupied until the next time the boss comes around to see what you’re up to.

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3 Responses to “The Quintessential Sequential Sunrise”

  1. Tris Says:

    This is a gorgeous sequence mate- a great description of photographing a sunrise, and a beautiful set of images. Well worth the early arising and quest for pants. Great stuff.

  2. MadDog Says:

    With all the naked people running around in my yard, I don’t know why I worry about pants. Thanks from the kind words coming from a master of the art.

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