I don't know if it's because I'm getting older, but I have definitely started to appreciate the more minor things in life. One of these things is getting up early, having a quick breakfast, collecting my camera gear, and heading out to watch the sunrise. To me, dawn is the most precious time to capture stunning images, and it fuels my body with energy. I'm about to tell you why.
I can fully understand that waking up early before sunrise can be daunting and exhausting. I'm a mother to two young children and, like most parents, I have been heavily sleep-deprived. Pregnancies, breastfeeding, colic, sickness, bedwetting, and nightmares, we've all been up at night sharing our love. Having a layin, cuddling up in bed has been almost like a mandatory ritual for me to recoup the years of exhaustion. I would never have thought that I one day would wake up voluntarily to experience a natural wonder.
I started to study the art of photography more and more and quickly came to realise that it's all about the light. Any opportunity to take a shot is great, but to capture moody, ethereal, and captivating images requires more than just light; they need stunning light. So the lazy and tired me persuaded myself to capture my dream images at dusk. An excellent opportunity for me to have some alone time after a day with work and family.
While the sun sets, I usually have a great time. It's obviously beautiful, but it can be busy. People are often out and about and during the summer drought, plants can look terribly miserable. As the sun sets, it quickly turns dark outside. As a result, I often come home feeling a bit uneasy. You see, I'm afraid of the dark, and being out alone in the dark evening often frightens me. So because of my fears, I avoided going out and doing what I love.
One day I decided to fulfill what I was dreading: wake up at 04.00 the following morning and experience what dawn would look and feel like. But, instead, I fell in love, and this is what I learned:
The hour before sunrise is usually very calm, and I love portraying calmness in my images. It's not unusual that it's (close to) wind still and quiet. Often, no other people are out at this time, so the scenery is all yours. There might be signs of nocturnal life, but other than that, there is a distinct feeling that the world is still asleep. You are alone, and that is an exhilarating feeling.
The first sunbeams awaken the natural life, and there is a chance to experience flowers and plants unfold and listen to birds' almost deafening chatter and singing. Often there is an excellent chance to spot wildlife at dawn and, most importantly, a fantastic opportunity to see and photograph them in gorgeous light.
I usually get up around an hour before sunrise also referred to as the blue hour. This is not when I scout for new locations but rather visit places that previously have caught my attention. This way, I don't need to be out in the darkness, and the light is constantly getting brighter. The colour of the sky and surroundings is continuously evolving, and it can be mesmerising to view. As a result, I get home with a positive, light, and refreshed feeling.
Mist and fog
Dawn is one of the best opportunities to experience mist and fog. Nothing is more mystical or ethereal than a dancing carpet of white water droplets. Add the colourful morning sunlight to that, maybe some wildlife, and I bet this will brighten anybody's day.
It's easy to fall in love with early mornings, but it does take some effort. It's not a ritual I have every day because I get too tired in the evenings, but I try to do it once a week or at least every other week. I thank my interest in photography that I "found the morning light," and even though I would put my camera aside, I would definitely make an effort to wake up early and watch that sunrise.
Whether you are a photographer or not, I highly encourage you to every now and then wake up early and experience dawn. By the end of my photography sessions, I often sit and just admire what I see. I can't even formulate what I see in words and quite often not even with my camera.
To not be disappointed or discouraged, it can be a good idea to have a look at your local weather forecast the evening before heading out. First of all check for when the sun will rise. To find fog and mist: avoid overcast, wind should be fairly still and under 3m/s and opt for high humidity (95-100%).
I wish you the best of luck and don't forget to enjoy your precious moment!