When the sun is just below the horizon, there is an infinite number of factors that can affect what the light will be like. From humidity, temperature, clouds or lack of them, as well as their structure, placement, altitude, recent weather…the list can go on and on. Even when conditions seem ripe for a good sunrise, some of these can inhibit the color or direction of the sun’s rays; whether they will reach those beautiful clouds you see, and even if they do, what color will result. So half the fun of shooting sunrises or sunsets is just the anticipation of what might be possible.
This morning when I woke up and peaked out the window, I noticed some pretty neat clouds and thought they might be just right for a good sunrise. The only problem was it was already too late for me to drive to the closest possible destination nearby; sunrise was in about 15 minutes and I was still in my “sleeping attire”. But I grabbed my gear and tripod and headed out the door anyway because I was wearing gym shorts and didn’t really have to change, and started walking toward an open area near a main road a few hundred yards away. But I still had intrusions in the sky and was a bit limited in the distance of my view. Then I realized I could climb the huge mound of dirt that was piled up about 40 feet at a new home development across the way which would get me above everything and give me a pretty clear 360-degree view. When I reached the top, the clouds were just catching the first hint of pink. If I had taken the time to change before going out of the house, I would have missed that light. I was pretty excited as I clicked off a few shots for a panorama anticipating the wondrous things to come as more and more of the clouds would begin to glow with that rich pink color I always lust for.
But It Fizzled!! The intense color never really materialized or work its way across the sky. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that the sunlight really reached the entire field of clouds, but by then the pink light was gone and was replaced by the golden light that follows. The cloud structure was really nice though, and even with the “second best” light, the sky looked pretty darn good. It reminded me of so many paintings I’ve seen by artists of the Hudson River School from the 1800’s. In the image, I included the tops of trees that were not clear-cut by the developer to give a sense of the grand scale of the sky for the panoramas that I took with the camera in the vertical position as I panned across the scene. The other reason I didn’t include anything below the tree tops was that it was a mess of partially constructed town homes and streets with loads of debris and equipment. I guess it’s just as important to know what to exclude as well as what to include within the frame.
Processing four overlapping vertical images into a horizontal panorama resulted in a print that would measure 122 inches long at 100% magnification with everything still pretty sharp!! I’m not sure if I will ever print it 10 feet wide, but I’m sure it will have no problems at half that width. As luck would have it, while I was removing dust spots, I discovered an airplane that had taken off from the nearby airport and decided to leave that dust spot in the image since it too was sharp. I can always remove later if needed. Would never have had that option using film.