In the last post, I mentioned that generally we look for clouds when photographing a sunrise or sunset. So yesterday morning when I looked out the window while it was still dark, I didn’t see any, but looking on the radar of a weather app, it showed a band of clouds approaching from the west and their movement appeared they might be overhead in time for the sunrise with the eastern horizon still clear. The ideal is for just a sliver of an opening on the horizon for the red rays of the setting or rising sun to squeeze through. It didn’t look like the ideal, but the conditions held promise. So I packed up my gear and headed out to Jordan Lake, but as the sky began to lighten, I came to realize there were no clouds to be seen anywhere. It looked like I wouldn’t even take the camera out of the bag, which for me is not all that rare; especially when I was still shooting film, which has only been 2-1/2 years since then.
Since I was already out, scouting a few spots I hadn’t seen at sunrise yet seemed to be a good way to make lemonade from lemons. The first spot I went to around the lake was gated until 8am, so that was out unless I wanted to do some serious walking around it. I decided to head toward a bridge I had shot from previously and had noticed what appeared to be a trail leading into the woods nearby. I figured it might be one used to get to the edge of the lake by fishermen and I would check it out as a possible sunrise location for future reference. It was still just before sunrise when I arrived, followed the trail and indeed, it did lead to a small spot along the lake. There was even a beaver pond just behind the lake as well and since the winds were calm, the waters were completely still; but still no clouds. The one interesting element though was mist rising from the water since it had been very cold overnight with frost warnings for the area. The sun was just about to pop over the trees on the far side of the lake and really glowed red against the bald blue sky and since the water level was relatively high, some of the bushes along the edge were surrounded by water and their reflections mirrored. It was a difficult spot in which to maneuver to get a decent composition, but I was finally able to spot something even though I saw a few small distracting branches intruding into the edge of the frame. But they could be trimmed out in post processing. As usual, I had a two-stop hard edge split neutral density filter in front of the lens to balance out the light values of the sky and water.
After just a few shots, I headed back up the trail to the bridge where I thought I might see some of the new spring buds backlit by the sun, and even tried shooting through some front lit (generally against some rule) green buds to some red maple buds, blurring the green using selective focus and a wide open aperture for a more abstract look. Heading back to the car, I noticed one of the first dogwoods to bloom along with a redbud above. The top of the scene was lit by the sun while the bottom remained in the shade, but I liked the opposition of the cool and warm light within the frame. I exposed for each separately thinking I might blend them together later, but managed to work through the differing values using a single average-metered image, retaining that differentiation. I also took a closer view from a different angle of the dogwood blooms alone which also showed the differing light, but this time it was foreground and background rather than top and bottom.
But it gnawed at me all day to try the spot again when the entire scene was evenly lit, so I returned later toward the end of the day when it would be in complete shade. But by then, the sky had turned overcast so the cool color of a blue sky would not work its way into the forest…it was a completely different image than I had hoped for. But I may return yet again if the conditions come together before the blooms disappear. Or I can file it away for next spring.
This is what I spoke of in a recent post about shooting in the rain, how we may see something that we want to photograph, but the lighting is not right at the time we see it and imagine what it would look under different conditions, file it away and return when those conditions are there.
Sometimes you pre-visualize what you’re after but conditions don’t work in your favor, so remain flexible and work with what is there. It makes you see more of what is possible rather than chasing something that is not.