Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunrise Shoot at Montrose Beach - 6.31.11 - Post 1

Wow, I'm so ridiculously behind on posting all the shots I've taken.

At the end of July a local photo group I belong to did a sunrise shoot.  Now, fortunately, it was at the beach next to the Magic Hedge, so I could basically roll out of bed, fall into some clothes and get there in like six minutes.

Which would have been important if I'd actually slept that night.  I'm not sure why, but my insomnia had been plaguing me so I had a whole... maybe forty-five minutes of sleep before getting to the beach at 4:30.

Now, sunrise is a kind of surreal time to begin with, but it's really trippy when you haven't slept leading into it.

That said, I had a lot of fun experimenting with different long exposures.  The sun actually comes up pretty quickly.  It went from full dark at a little after 4:30 to full light by 6:00.  This means you're constantly adjusting for new light levels, but when you get good weather like we did, it's worth a little time and effort.

On Alien Shores
A very plain stretch of beach turns orange and a long exposure makes the waves look soft and other-worldly.  The silhouette of a few ducks keep the shot from becoming bleak.
Where Earth and Sky Meet

A really long exposure (5 seconds) gives these pylons and the pier a very surreal effect.  Because of the long exposure the waves come up on the shore look like they're covered in mist, but it's just the effect of the moving water over time.  The layers of color add to the mysteriousness of the shot.
First Rays of Sun on Lake Michigan
This was one of the last ones I took - obviously - as the sun was over the horizon.

There's something so very different about the lighting and the feel of a sunrise shoot in Chicago as opposed to a sunset shoot.  I think it has to do with two major factors:

1.) Over the course of the day the air quality can change pretty spectacularly.  I think the haze that sets in on a hot day with a lot of car traffic and factory pollution in the air it can really change the way the colors in the sky appear when the sun isn't 'up'.

2.) In Chicago the sun rises over the water, but sets behind it.  We're west of Lake Michigan so we face the sun when we look over the water in the morning.  Shooting the sunset can lead to pretty colors, but you don't actually have *the sun* in your shots and you often have weird things happening with shadows since the sun is coming in low and behind you as you face the water.

Photograph of Photographers
Some of our group headed out onto the pier just south of where I was on the beach.  They made awesome, clear silhouettes.

Also, trying to get pictures of the sun without actually *looking* at the sun?  About as hard as it sounds.

Do Not Taunt The Happy Fun Balls.
Just after the sun came up completely I noticed these bouys in the water to the north of me.  They're clearly tethered to the lake-floor because they didn't move from their spots as I was shooting, but it looks like there are just these huge red balls out in the middle of the lake.  There was something very "The Prisoner" or maybe from the epsiode "Sound of Drums" from Doctor Who ("Decimate them!") about these bright red dots in an otherwise pretty monochromatic shot.

Seemingly Black Shores and Pink Skies
Another shot like that first one - this time without the ducks.  It amazes me how much more desolate this shot looks without them.  The water is being flattened by the long exposure and the pink and orange sky make the water and land look dark and foreboding.  By the way, the color in these shots was not altered in any way.  I corrected the horizons and did a little cropping after that, but the colors are true to life.

Early Morning Blues.
This is one of my favorite shots from the day.  It's only a 1/15th second exposure and an f-stop of 5.6, but it still has that bizarre, surreal quality.  Again, no color correction.  At this point the sun was *just* up far enough to keep the sky from seeming pink, but there are still bands of color from the the way the low sun reflected off the few clouds in the sky.  One of the biggest challenges we had shooting this was that the temperature was changing incredibly fast which meant that everything was getting covered with condensation, including our lenses.  We were constantly wiping them off with out lens cloths, but we still got more shots that were were a little more soft and fuzzy than we intended to.  I think this one ha a little of that going on - the camera was on a tripod and the shutter release was done with the timer, yet the posts aren't 100% sharp.  After staring at it for a while, I've decided that I like that effect, but it wasn't exactly planned.

I was able to get closer to the ducks just as the sun was creeping up on the horizon.  I love the harsh, stark silhouette of the two ducks (look closely, there really is two).  And again, the long shutter smooths out the water and almost makes it look like it's frozen and the ducks have crept up to the edge to investigate.

More sunrise pics next.  After that, the *amazing* morning of dew-sparkling spider webs in the Hedge.


  1. I love that one in your cut particularly - the pink sky, pink water, and black beach. It's very lovely. And not at all what I think of when I think Chicago and the lake.

  2. Yeah, sunrise makes for a very different looking city. Thanks for the note! :)