Archive for the 'sunrise' Category


12/5/2010: Bosque Sunrise!

Happy Sunday!

It is absolutely essential, on every trip to the Festival of the Cranes at  Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, to get out at least one morning for the dawn fly-out. For one thing November dawns under the mountains along the Rio Grande in New Mexico are spectacular, and for another, the spectacle of the geese rising in streams and leaving the ponds where they spend the night can be breath-taking, awe inspiring, thrilling. It makes the alarm clock and being out before breakfast worth it. It makes  numb fingers and icy feet worth it. It makes, dare I say, life worth it.

It can be, for many people, a true life-changing experience…and opening of the eyes to unsuspected beauty and unexpected possibility…which fundamentally changes the way we see the world.

You can spot the first-timers by the light in their eyes, by the grins, by the voluble and visible delight as they troop back to cars and heaters and cooling coffee. But at least half the crowd (and we are talking several hundred, sometimes 500 or more,  people gathered each dawn during the festival) are returnees…people who by their manner have seen this all before, and have come back one more time to feed something in their souls that responds in the Bosque dawn. Many of these folks, like me, have been coming to Bosque in November for 20 years or more, and still we are out at least one morning before sunup to catch the fly-out and the dawn. It is essential to our souls.

Church should only be so good!

Canon SX20IS at 560mm equivalent, f5.7 @ 1/640 @ ISO 160.

Processed in Lightroom.

And here is the video.

Bosque Dawn

11/7/2010: in the frame now, happy Sunday!

I woke this Sunday morning from a dream of worship…that in itself is odd…though I do have a few of those dreams each year, and I suppose Sunday morning is appropriate for one…but before I was fully awake this post formed, and now, up and at the computer, all I have to do is build what I saw.

At my best as a photographer I am only a frame and an instant.

I am a frame. All I do is point the frame of the camera’s rectangular view at the world. Today I use the zoom on the camera to  change the size of the frame…make it bigger and more inclusive, more grand…or smaller and more particular, more intimate. I can move in close for a true macro of lichen, or add magnification by shooting through a spotting scope for portraits of sparrows. I can zoom out to wide-angle for the sunrise. I can even stitch frames together into the larger frame of a panorama. But whatever I do, it is still a frame…a little rectangle imposed on reality. The frame says “This is what I see. Look!” I am a frame.

I am an instant. I control when I push the shutter button. I choose the instant, and it is only an instant…a fraction of a second, when the camera records, for better or worse, whatever is in the frame. Even if I shoot a burst of images, as I often do when digiscoping birds, I still have to pick the one instant out of all those instants that I want to show the world. The instant says “This is what I see now. Look” I am an instant.

I do not fill the frame, I can only point it. I do not create the instant. I can only choose it. But in those two choices is all the power of photography.

The rest is just technique.

This is what I see now. Look!

I don’t of course, know what you see when you look at one of my photographs. I can hope that if I have done my job, you will see something that captures your attention…maybe even something that stirs your soul, that moves within you and touches places that need touching. At best, looking at what I see might open your eyes to something you would not otherwise have seen. It might change the way you see the world. That is the power of photography at its best.

I took pictures for a long time before I knew what I was looking for…what fills my frames and draws me to the instants I choose. Interestingly enough, the actual photographs did not change much, if at all. One day I knew why as well as what and when.

And that brings us full circle. As I have said, I am sure, on more than one Sunday in the past, my why is worship. What fills my frame in the ever-changing now is always some aspect of the beauty…the awe-full beauty, the intimate splendor, the wonderful power, the amazing compassion…of the Creator God displayed in the creation. Every picture is a celebration of that in God and that in me that brings the world to being through love. I frame those instants, from macro to panorama, when I am most aware of God. That is worship. That is my why.

So, this is what I see, now. Look.


11/6/2010: Morning flight, Cape May nJ

One of the great migration shows is the Morning Flight at Higbee Beach, in Cape May NJ. Most mornings during fall migration the birds wake up in Cape May after a 24 hour rest and a good stoking among the fall seed heads of the point and fly north…yes, north…up the shore of Deleware Bay, presumably looking for a narrower stretch of open water to cross. This northward flow along the shore concentrates the birds something wonderful. Thousands of some species pass every day. For many years now CMBO and ZEISS have put counters on the dyke at Higbee to count the passing birds, beginning a hour before sunrise and ending two hours after. These days here is also an observation tower below the dyke and, on weekends, an interpretive naturalist there to tell folks what is going on.

A week ago today was one of those high days when Cape May was alive with birds. The best migration day, some said, since 1999. Before dawn the dyke at Higbee was populated with birders waiting for the show, cars were parked all up and down the road, and it was standing room only on the observation tower. 

This is a three exposure HDR, with some extra processing in Lightroom to bring up the foreground. Canon SX20IS.


10/31/2010: Cape May Sunrise hdr Panorama

Happy Sunday!

Looking east from the sundeck of the Montreal Inn in Cape May a few moments before sunrise, yesterday.

Sunrises, I think, touch a special place in the soul, and, of course there is noting like a sunrise over the ocean where you can see right out to the edge of the world. On a morning like this, even if just for a second there, it takes a hard heart indeed…or one deeply troubled, beaten well down…not to embrace the cliché: every new day is a miracle. It is easy for the hopeful to take such beauty at the beginning as a promise of the potential of the day. And, of course, part of the wonder comes from the fact that every sunrise is not so spectacular. Our lives don’t always allow us to see the sunrise at all, and there are days when the sun just sneaks up behind clouds (literal or figurative) with no display (or none we can see). So we have reason to celebrate the moments like this one. The moment itself is a gift from the creator, and so is the ability to appreciate it.

On the technical side, this is a 9 exposure HDR panorama: 3 sets of 3 exposures blended and tone-mapped in Photomatix, the results stitched in PhotoShop Elements, and the the panorama final processed in Lightroom. Best viewed as large as your monitor will take it.


9/16/2010: Cape May Dawn HDR

Out on the beach with only my Canon SD4000IS, early in the morning, with the golden light of the sun flooding in under an overcast sky, I could not resist trying a handheld  HDR. Two exposures, separated by about 3.5EV using the exposure compensation dial. In hindsight I might have tried 3 exposures with a wider separation…with one exposure dialed all the way down to –2EV, but even then I doubt I could have preserved detail around the sun, and I certainly would have needed a tripod. I especially like the subtle, weathered blue of the tents in contrast to the greens of the beach plants.

Canon SD4000IS at 28mm equivalent. ISO 250.

Exposures blended with tone mapping in Photomatix. Final adjustments for Blackpoint, Clarity, Vibrance and Sharpen in Lightroom. Cropped from the bottom for composition.

From Cape May Fall 2010.



Early Light: Highpoint

During the chase of Team Zeiss for the World Series of Birding we made stops in some of the most beautiful country in New Jersey, and, though I was focused on documenting the Team’s efforts for the day, I was not totally insensitive to the beauty…and since I was not actually competing, I could turn my camera away from the team for a quick landscape, or even a flower shot, or two.

This is somewhere in the Highpoint/Stokes area in the far north-west of the state. The sun was just glancing across the landscape from the horizon. It does not get better than this.

It was a very demanding exposure problem. I tipped the camera up to meter more of the sky and locked exposure. That left the foreground too dark, but I was able to recover the detail in Lightroom. This image will repay viewing as large as you monitor will take it.

Canon SX20IS at 28mm equivalent. F4.0 @ 1/200th @ ISO 80. Landscape program.

In Lightroom, Recovery for the sky. Heavy Fill Light for the foreground. Blackpoint well right. Added Clarity and Vibrance. Sharpen landscape preset.

From World Series of Birding 2010.



Sunday Sunrise: St Augustine Beach

Happy Sunday! This was exactly a week ago, give or take an hour, on St. Augustine Beach, right across form our hotel. I got down low at the edge of the tide (using the flip out lcd and staying dry). The random stranger wading gives scale and dimension the shot would lack without her…I know because I too that shot too 🙂 .

Canon SX20IS at 28mm equivalent. F2.8 @ 1/1250 @ ISO 80. Landscape program.

Recovery for the sky and Fill Light for the foreground in Lightroom. Added Clarity and just a touch of Vibrance. Blackpoint just barely right. Sharpen landscape preset.

From St. Augustine FL 2010.

And turning 90 degrees south, this is the view down the beach, again with a lone Sunday morning tourist.



Treasure Island Under Snowy Mountains

Another shot from an interesting dawn in Vegas.

Sony DSC H50 at 120mm equivalent. F3.5 @ 1/13th @ ISO 100. Programmed auto.

Recovery in Lightroom for the sky and snow. Blackpoint right. Added Clarity and Vibrance and Sharpen Landscape preset.

From Las Vegas 2010



Fog in the Valley, Snow on the Mountains, Sunrise, Vegas

A Twitter friend was apparently watching the weather channel and saw the report of a rare fog in Las Vegas and twittered me to ask if I was photographing it. I had not yet opened the drapes of my 18th floor room overlooking Vegas and a corner of the strip. When I did, the sun was just rising…the mountains behind Treasure Island were covered with snow and the valley was indeed filled with fog. I took many shots.

This one required a good deal of perspective and distortion correction in PhotoShop Elements using the Camera Distortion filter…after my normal processing in Lightroom: Blackpoint right, Fill Light, Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpen Landscape.

Sony DSC H50 at 31mm equivalent. F2.7 @ 1/20th @ ISO 100. Programmed auto.

Not your usual view of Vegas.

From Las Vegas 2010.



Breath of Snow

This has a look of frost to me, but it actually quite a heavy layer of snow, molded around every branch and twig. One good breath of wind and it is all gone! The low dawn light, just half behind picks out the detail.

Sony DSC H50 at about 400mm equivalent. F6.3 @ 1/200 @ ISO 100. Programmed auto.

Added Clarity and Vibrance in Lightroom. Blackpoint to the right. Sharpen landscape preset.

From First Snow 12/09.