Tag Archives: sunrise
June 27, 2012

PV021: Salar de Uyuni (part 2)

This video, of course, continues where our first Salar de Uyuni video left off.

With everything I’ve got on my to-do list while we’re living in Australia, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like for editing more travel videos. The biggest hurdle has been recording new voice-overs.  Oksana is usually off working for 40+ hours a week, so there’s not much time for us to collaborate on the next big show-and-tell.  I realized, however, that I had a set of voice-overs still on my hard drive — the ones we recorded last year during our Bolivian salt flat tour.  ‘Bout time I followed up with the second part of that fantastic tour…!

It wasn’t until I started editing that I realized how little footage I shot during day two and day three of that tour.  Lots of great photos, very little video.  I suspect it was because we didn’t have a reliable power source until the tour was over and I was worried about draining my batteries.  Made the edit a little harder to pull off, but thankfully, I was able to supplement it with extra photos (as well as some of Wendy and Dusty’s videos.)  I trust the beauty of the landscape still comes through.

Show Notes:


February 23, 2012

Angkor Wat at Dawn

Angkor Wat at Dawn

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While in Cambodia, we made sure to buy a three-day pass for the temples.  Partly that was to have enough time to see all the ruins at a leisurely pace, but I also wanted more than one shot at getting a sunrise photo over Angkor Wat.

On our first morning, we had our tuk tuk driver pick us up at 5am.  He dropped us off at the gates of Angkor Wat and told us to try to set up in front of the northern reflecting pool which, he said, was the best spot to get the sun, the temple’s spires, and their reflections all in one shot… at least in December.

That early, it was still pitch black.  Without our flashlights, I’m sure we would have tripped on the uneven paving stones of the causeway.  By the time we reached the reflecting pool, almost every available spot had been taken.  We set up on the extreme right edge where we could still get some water in the shot, but unfortunately the grassy edge of the pond dominated the frame.  At least the sky was clear.  The best photos we got that morning – when the heavens were still changing from black to purple to red – were well before the sun actually came into view.

We resolved to make another attempt the next day and arranged for our driver to have us at the gates just before the park officially opened at 5am.  Those extra 15 minutes made all the difference.

While other people made it into the complex before we did, Oksana and I were the very first ones to the reflecting pool and we even had about five minutes to choose our spot.  By the time I was extending my tripod’s legs, other people were staking their claims.  This time we were set up on the opposite side of the pool.

The sky was very different that morning.  There was a low cloud cover that was being pushed by the wind.  Clouds came from beyond the Angkor Wat, floated over the temple, then over our spot at the reflecting pool.  It never looked like it was going to rain, but those clouds prevented us from ever seeing the sun directly.

My favorite photo came well before dawn.  I was still playing with the settings on my camera, trying to find the right balance between silhouetting the temple and illuminating the clouds.  Oksana later told me about the Japanese tourist that had leaned in over my shoulder after every shot, trying to read the 5D’s shutter speed and aperture settings so he could dial them into his own DSLR.  (Pointless, because he didn’t have a tripod.  The only way he was going to get a 30-second exposure in focus was if he’d brought Medusa along as his assistant…)

Many, many of the tourists crowding around us were cluelessly taking flash photos with their point-and-shoot cameras.  Most of them were either unaware that their tiny flashes wouldn’t illuminate much beyond 10 feet, or didn’t know how to turn them off.  At any rate, Oksana and I commiserated about how annoying it was to have a hundred strobes going off in the dark every minute.

Later, when we were reviewing our photos on a laptop, we discovered an unintended and wonderful consequence of all that added light.  While even 50 flashes were not enough to lighten the face of the temple, their cumulative brightness was enough to paint the pink water lilies out on the pond with their light.

Canon 5D Mark II
Date: 5:32am, 6 December 2011
Focal Length: 47mm
Shutter: 30 sec
Aperture: F/4
Exposure: +2 step
Flash: No
ISO: 640
Photoshop: Slight rotation and crop, auto color, slight saturation boost, and a lot of tiny patch tool work to get rid of the long-exposure, red and blue “hot pixels.”


September 24, 2010

Pelicans at Sunrise

Pelicans at Sunrise, Nags Head, NC

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When I stay at Nags Head, I attempt a sleeping schedule that allows for early morning walks along the beach.  I always think I’ll be able to get up before sunrise, but in reality, I’d have a much better chance of staying up all night.  At the end of every vacation, I’m so ridden with self-inflicted guilt that I inevitably drag myself out of bed too early on the last morning and spend my day traveling back home in sleep-deprived stupor.

This year was no exception.

We arrived in Nags Head just in time for my grandfather’s 90th birthday at the end of July, but we had plans to push on with our road trip shortly thereafter.  I stayed on the beach for less than a week and true to form, on the last morning, I woke up before my alarm and noticed the sun was just below the horizon.  I dragged Oksana downstairs with me to watch the spectacle, both of us fully intending to be back asleep within 15 minutes.

Oksana swung gently in the hammock while I stood on the porch and took pictures.  At one point, a lone pelican flew over the sand dune in front of the cottage and I kicked myself for not noticing it before it got into frame.  It would have looked great in silhouette against the sunrise.

I’d snapped about 20 shots by that point and the sun was about to get lost behind a bank of clouds.  I was talking with Oksana about going back to sleep, but I keeping my eye on the line of dunes behind her, hoping I’d spot another pelican before it got to us.  Just before we packed it in, I looked back out at the ocean and saw a huge formation of pelicans skimming the waves far out beyond where I had been searching for them.

I’m pretty sure I got out a “Holy sh…!” before I was able to swing the camera up to my eye.  I had time to take one picture – just one! – while they were centered underneath the sun.  Looking at it now, I realize I couldn’t have spread the pelicans out – six on the left, six on the right – any better if I’d tried.

Canon 5D Mark II
Date: 6:12am, 31 July 2010
Focal Length: 105mm
Shutter: 1/200 second (-1.3 step)
Aperture: F/5.6
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Rotated for level horizon, cropped to third lines, increased saturation to approximate real colors.


April 30, 2010

Space Shuttle Exhaust

Sunlight on the Space Shuttle Discoverys exhaust plume

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In keeping with this week’s theme…

When the Space Shuttle Discovery launched at 6:21am on the morning of April 5th, the sun had not yet risen.  However, as the Shuttle itself disappeared into the distance, the horizon was beginning to brighten.  It was still pre-dawn when helpful voice over the loudspeakers urged everyone to get back in the busses before the cloud of toxic exhaust fumes had a chance to drift over the Causeway.

Our group piled back into our Grey Line and commenced with the waiting; it would be almost an hour before we moved and another hour or two on the road back to Orlando.  Despite everyone being exhausted (we’d been up all night) the excitement level was high.  Everywhere I looked, people were using the backs of their cameras to show off their photos and video.

While I was sitting there, I happened to glance out the window.  The sun was still below the horizon, but it had started to illuminate just a bit of the Shuttle’s wind-swept contrail.  I remembered something I’d read from Stan Jirman’s (excellent, excellent, excellent!) Shuttle Launch Photography web page:

With a day launch, some of the best pictures are taken after the shuttle is gone. The exhaust fumes often create spectacular cloud formations which are more impressive than a shuttle lifting off (admit it, you have seen pics of a shuttle launch before, but not necessarily one of a cloud like below). [photo link]

I knew we weren’t supposed to be outside, but I decided that asking the bus driver was worth a shot (so to speak!)  I removed my camera’s 400mm equivalent, snapped on a shorter lens, then walked up the aisle to ask if he wouldn’t mind opening up the door for me.  “Of course!  No problem!”

I took maybe three steps from the bus, lifted up my camera, and fired off two, three-shot bursts.  Both bracketed by 1 stop, but otherwise just using the automatic settings. I was back in my seat thirty seconds later.  I checked them out on the camera’s LCD screen and decided my favorite was one of the darker (-1 stop) exposures.

Now tell me that doesn’t look just like a Chinese Dragon!

Canon 5D Mark II
Date: 6:55am, 5 April 2010
Focal Length: 24mm
Shutter: 1/20 second
Aperture: F/5.6
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Slight color correction.

January 26, 2007

Nags Head Pier

Nags Head Pier

My grandparents have a cottage on the beach in Nags Head, North Carolina.  It’s one of the places I think of as “home,” and I try to get back there as often as possible.  Nags Head has grown up a lot in my lifetime — it’s actually quite crowded in the summer now — but photogenic scenes still abound.

As a kid, I was always given a downstairs or back room in the cottage.  On the last couple visits, however, I was given what I still consider to be an “adult” bedroom.  (Not because I was all grown up; I’m still in the third generation down on the totem pole!  I was simply the oldest family member visiting at the time.)  Other than my grandparents’ room, this is the only room facing the ocean.  At night you can open the windows and let the salt air and surf lull you to sleep.  Early in the morning, the sunlight pours into the room as the sun climbs up out of the ocean.

I’m not a morning person.  Given the choice, I’ll take my camera out of its bag for the latter golden hour.  I spent most of my last Nags Head vacation reading in the hammock.  I never built up the motivation to go out picture hunting.  But on my last morning there, that warm, bright sunlight came streaming in the windows and pulled me out of bed.  One last walk in the sand before heading off to the airport.

The Nags Head pier is only about a half mile down the beach from the cottage.  On a morning with a calm, featureless ocean and an empty expanse of sand, it was the only obvious photography subject.  I walked up to it, under it, right beside it, trying to find the best way to fit both it and the morning sun into frame.  I took about a dozen photos, varying the exposure and switching between portrait and landscape shots.  This was my favorite.

I like that the guy casting his pole creates a little bit of action for the scene (in the 8 MegaPixel original, you can just barely make out the fishing line.)  I like the small details, like the seagulls waiting on the rail, and the guy on the end of the pier with his pole pointed straight down.  Often, digital cameras add weird color gradients to pictures of the sun.  I love how the red and yellow rings came through on this one.

There was only one thing I didn’t like, and it was easily removed.  There used a small smudge in the sky above the cast fishing line.  I’m almost positive it couldn’t have been a fingerprint on the lens — the photos taken before and after this one are clean.  Perhaps it was a small bug, passing in front of my camera, I don’t know.  At any rate, Photoshop’s healing brush made quick work of it.  I also used Photoshop’s Level tools to darken the shadows just a tad.  It gives the photo just a little bit more of that silhouette feel.

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 30 June 2006; 6:20am
Focal Length: 55mm
Shutter: 1/800 second
Aperture: F/5.6
Photoshop:  Levels adjustment, removed small, blurry smudge in sky

Jeez, I just realized that all the photos I’ve posted so far have some sort of body of water in them!  Well, except Moscow Thunderstorms, but even in that one you could argue that rain was in the background.  I gotta find a dry picture next week.

September 7, 2005


Sunrise over Haleakala.3:15am. That’s how early you have to get up to beat the sunrise to the peak of Maui’s tallest volcano, Haleakala. When you’re staying in Kihei, that is.

We had packed the night before, so we were out the door fifteen minutes later. The roads of Maui are essentially deserted at 3:30am, at least until you start climbing the winding Haleakala Highway up the volcano. Even before dawn, cars group up and ascend in clumps.

Although tired, Oksana and I enjoyed the dark ride up the mountain. Below us were thousands of lights (and what looked to be a large sugarcane fire) illuminating the flat valley between Kahului and Kihei. Above us, the Perseid meteor showers were at their height and even with my attention focused on the steep curves, I couldn’t help but see half a dozen bright shooting stars in the clear mountain air.

The park itself is open 24 hours a day, even though the entrance may not be staffed. We coasted to a stop at a place where the cars lined behind a ticket vending machine. Many drivers had exited their warm cars and were standing in a line with their arms crossed and their shoulders hunched against the cold. Some guy couldn’t get the machine to accept his wrinkly old ten, so to get the line moving again, Oksana traded him a crisp $10 bill. Of course, when her time came, no one would exchange theirs for the dog-eared reject. She came back to the car, grabbed a twenty from my wallet, and soon returned with 10 silver dollars in change.