Sunrises are easier to photograph

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been getting up early to catch the sun rise above the horizon on the shores of Lake Ontario. It wasn’t easy waking up at 5am some days, but let me tell you, more often than not, I find it easier to take photos of sunrises than sunsets. And here’s why.

The horizon

The glow of the morning sun just above the horizon

In order to take any photos of sunrises or sunsets, you have to be present at that time. I’ve often heard many photographers say that they like to take sunset photos much more than sunrise photos because of the sheer fact that they are always awake at that time. Well, for the most of us, that’s true.

I can’t however, always say that it’s easier to take sunset photos because that means I have to schedule my day around this time. If I’m out and about running errands or doing something else, I may not necessarily be able to make it to that sunset shoot. And as our schedules get increasingly busier and busier, we are often left wanting more time to just relax to ourselves, making it even harder to want to go to that shoot to begin with.

Sunrises, however, are a completely different animal. Why? Because 99% of the time, we are always doing the same thing before the sun rises: sleeping. What do we need to do to go take those sunrise shots? Wake up! It’s really that easy. No need to reschedule appointments, rush traffic, or miss dinner.

Admittedly it does take that extra effort of waking up extra early but I find it very rewarding to see that sun rise amidst the cool morning breeze. In fact, there’s nothing more eye-opening than seeing Mother Nature at her best.

The sun rise

The sun rises at the U-Turn


Over the last few weeks I made it an effort to catch those morning glows. Some days I was more successful than others—weather-wise. During heavily overcast periods you don’t get that brilliant glow of the morning sun. Instead if you’re lucky, you’ll get some dramatic clouds rolling in with a hint of the sun behind it. But other days I’ve witnessed some magical moments that I hoped I was able to show with my photography.

The white rise of the sun, fog, and clouds.

The white rise of the sun, fog, and clouds.

Next time, why not wake up just a little earlier and see what surprises await you?

Concrete Jungle

Nikon D800, 14mm, f/8.0, 1/30 sec., ISO800

Nikon D800, 14mm, f/8.0, 1/30 sec., ISO800

Why is it that people are always fixated by cityscape overview shots? Are they bewildered by the amount of buildings the city has? Or perhaps it’s the lack of? Is it the wide expanse the view provides us, or the fact that you can see the horizon in the far distance mixed in with the buildings in the foreground? Our curiosity is what strives us to go further with our photography and that’s always a great learning experience.

This shot was taken from the CN Tower right before a storm was approaching the city. The ominous clouds coupled with the sun trying to peak out from them made for a great photo opportunity. The CN Tower offers a great observatory for photographers, and while you are not allowed to take your tripod with you, you’re still able to get some nice shots with the advent of the latest technologies in dSLRs.

B&W landscapes can be dramatic

iPhone 6 Plus, 4 second exposure

iPhone 6 Plus, 4 second exposure

I’m not the one to make black and white landscape photos, but when I see one that works, I stick with it. This photo that I took with my iPhone 6 Plus is one such example.

This was in fact a long exposure of about 4 seconds, which is why you can see the rocks so clearly. The exposure was long enough to smooth out any movements from the water.

I was standing on the edge of the icy area so I was restricted in where I could place my camera and tripod, but I knew somehow, this place would work well. While I was pleased with the coloured version, as soon as I edited this in black and white, I knew instantly this was the version I wanted.

When you have an instinct for a photo, go with it and take it. The same can be said about your editing!

Snow and sun

Edited in Lightroom and Topaz Lab's Star Effects

Edited in Lightroom and Topaz Lab’s Star Effects

Two very difficult things to photograph, all in one frame!

As much as we love photographs with the warmth of the sun in there, the sun itself is never a flattering thing to get, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.

The sun being so bright, basically over-exposes in most photographs, yielding in an unsightly white blotch in your photo. People may know that it’s the sun, but your eye is immediately attracted to it, rather than the intended subject of your photo, making it an unnecessary evil.

As for snow, that is well known for throwing your camera’s metering off. The pure white fluffiness that we all love in the wintertime fools the camera sensor in thinking that it must make it a neutral grey to prevent over-exposure, yielding in an under-exposed picture.

So, while it may not seem like it, this photo went through a number of edits to make it look more natural-looking. The original image straight out of my Nikon D800 is below—reduced to size.

I exposed the photo just enough so that I wouldn’t blow out the details surrounding the sun too much. Otherwise, there would be too large a white spot in the middle of my frame. This in turn under-exposed the snow in my foreground, but retained all the details that I wanted, like the shadows of the bumps throughout.

I did a large part of the post in Lightroom because I was able to edit non-destructively on my image. I have to admit, I shot this in JPG rather than in RAW—the latter being the better way to go as it allows you to maintain your image quality with a non-destructive editing process. I bumped up the saturation of the blue, and the orange bands using gradients, and increased my exposure to brighten the snow. The snow took on a very blue hue since I shot this in JPG and had it on auto white-balance. To fix this, I painted over just the snow areas with my paint brush in Lightroom, and changed the temperature of it to reduce the blue and increase the yellow, in addition to slightly desaturating it, which removed any colour casts that were remaining.

Then, with the clever use of Topaz Lab’s Star Effects, I added in those sun spikes, emitting from the white blob I had from overexposing the sun. At the very least, the unsightly blown out spot looks a little cleaner and more representative of an actual sun. I made sure to balance the colour of those sun spikes with the orange band in my photo.

That’s pretty much all there is to this image. What was a rather bland image (shown below) that I originally didn’t even bother to rate, now looks more like a usable winter wonderscape.

Nikon D800, 24mm, f/9.0, 0.5 sec., ISO 100 on a tripod

Nikon D800, 24mm, f/9.0, 0.5 sec., ISO 100 on a tripod

This time last year

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/7.1, 24mm, ISO 250

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/7.1, 24mm, ISO 250

This time last year, I went to Lakefront Promenade Park in Toronto to see what it was like. It was white, frozen, and cold. But that’s no surprise given last year’s winter in Toronto.

This year, however, isn’t fairing much better as the cold temperatures just keep sticking around, giving us more snow day after day.

I think it’s about time I visit this park again sometime in the near future to see how different it can be from one winter to another.

Stay tuned.