Small hours, big skies, deserted places


As I've grown older, I've become addicted to early morning starts; slurping my coffee at 4AM; driving on abandoned roads to unfamiliar locations in the dark; setting up my gear in places where I will see literally no-one for at least the next two or three hours (sometimes not at all, until I'm on the road home) and, above all, experiencing the magic and majesty of a singular dawn blossoming in the skies before me.

The night owl in me, the creature that informed and defined so much of my early life, has definitely flown the nest.

The early bird is firmly in residence.

Above image: Wimbleball Lake at dawn. Exmoor National Park.

Nikon D810, 14-24mm f2.8 at 14mm, ISO 64, 1/80 second at f13, tripod

27th September 2015

Although we may not routinely or habitually be up and out at daybreak, we all experience extraordinary dawns from time to time and, when we do, we say to ourselves that we should rise earlier more often (in my case though, observing sunrise was generally a corollary of being out all night...).

Everything those boring old farts used to say to me, in futility, when I was young... All that stuff about the dawn being the best time of the day... Well... You'd never believe it... It's actually true...

So, if you are at all serious about extending and improving your landscape portfolio, then, first things first, you are going to have to start by setting the alarm well into that hostile territory on the right-hand hemisphere of the clock face. Even in winter with sunrise at 07.30, to be on location somewhere fairly close to where you live an hour before dawn - so you can shoot the blue hour and be ready for the golden hour - you're going to have to leave home at 06.00-ish. With summer sunrises as early as 04.45... Well, you do the math.

There is a unique mood, a dreamlike enchantment to the dawn - and your photography will reflect much of this. We know without reading the caption information that the above image, for example, could only have been captured at dawn. Sunset offers similar light and colours, but on immediate association with the photo, we instinctively know it's dawn; the serenity, the implicit motionlessness and the mist speak volumes to our senses and memories.


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