Sunrise over Port Stanley

Back when I started in photography, I would look out the window to decide whether to shoot or not. Today, smartphone apps like The Photographer’s Ephemeris and GoldenHour.ONE take much of the guesswork out of shooting at the beginning and end of daylight. These apps combine mapping functionality with sun and moon charts (and even weather forecasts in the case of GoldenHour.ONE) to allow the photographer to preplan shots.

Ever since we bought a lakeside property just west of Port Stanley, I had the idea of photographing the sun rising over the breakwaters protecting Port Stanley Harbour. Using The Photographer’s Ephemeris, I was able to find a set of dates where the sun would break above the horizon near the end of the breakwaters when I was standing on our property some kilometers to the west. Specifically, the seven days between September 20, 2017 and September 27, 2017 fit my requirements. I then used the GoldenHour.ONE app to watch for a day where the weather at sunrise would be likely to produce an interesting sky (typically this means having a degree of cloud coverage). Over the seven days, it looked like Monday September 25 would have the best cloud coverage for a good photograph.

Up at 6:00 am on the 25th, I made my way to our property and began to set up my camera.  My plan was to shoot in a way that gave me the most flexibility in post-processing. In these situations, I have a standard setup I use:

  • I put the camera on a tripod and use a remote trigger for the shutter. I also use the Live View option on my D7000, which puts the view through the lens on the back monitor of the camera.
  • I focus the camera manually using the hyperfocal distance method, which maximizes the distance in which objects will be in acceptable focus. Once again, there are dozens of apps available to help you figure out what the hyperfocal distance is for a given camera, lens and f-stop.
  • I use the bracket function of the D7000 to take three photos one after another: one under exposed (-1.3 EV), one at proper exposure (0 EV) and one over exposed (+1.3 EV). This allows me to use High Dynamic Range techniques in Lightroom.

This setup minimizes the number of times I need to touch the camera, so I can concentrate on what is going on in front of me.

I was able to shoot 30 three-shot sequences between 6:37 am and 7:25 am when I felt the quality of light ended. The actual sunrise occurred at 7:14 am.

The photo above was from one of the final sequences; the sun had fully risen but was still sitting in the distant clouds. I used the HDR option in Lightroom to use the three bracketed images to produce the final image with better detail in the both the darks and lights than a single image could deliver.

Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8
Focal Length: 17 mm
Exposure: 1/160 sec at f/13, 1/80 sec at f13.0, 1/40 sec at f13.0; merged in Adobe Lightroom using the HDR option
ISO Speed Rating: ISO 640

It has been quite awhile since I had made time for such a session and I resolved that I would not wait as long for the next one.

Barry Cott Written by:

Barry is one of the two driving forces behind Station Studios. An avid photographer and outdoor enthusiast, when he's not traveling, he calls Port Stanley, Ontario home.