Time and time again we see the most beautiful places photographed with a perfect sunset. We all want that shot. Then, before you know it, everyone has that shot. And when you do an image search on that location it’s nothing but sunset shots. That bright orange sky and glowing ball of beautiful energy floating just above the horizon. Then, after doing this 5 or 6 times you start to realize that the same shot that you’re out to get has been shot a thousand times before you. Then you just decide not to bother with it, because, you know, it’s a 40 minute drive to get there, and you’re still kind of hungry and may just want to get a quick bite to eat, and then maybe if you have time afterward you’ll get out there and beat the sunset so you can get your picture. All the while, in the back of your head you really didn’t want to go anyway because you’ve suddenly lost your creative juices after seeing 100 other pictures of the same scene. That is how we get into a photography funk. When our creative spark just goes away because we feel like there’s nothing that you can shoot that hasn’t been shot already. I’m guilty of this myself from time to time. So how do we fix it?
I’m a big fan of architectural photography and love shooting skylines and downtown areas. I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area so I’ve got plenty to choose from. I’ve taken my fair share of shots with the sun reflecting off all of the buildings in the evening, and the Fort Worth stockyards at sunset. I was just never happy with them because they didn’t feel any different than what you can find after spending 3 seconds googling “Dallas sunset”. So, one night I just made the decision to get up super early in the morning and drive out there and get the skyline at sunrise instead! Sure, there are Dallas sunrise photos as well, but not the the extent as sunset or night shots.
What I like the most about sunrise is that you will likely compose the image in a different manner than you would if you were shooting at sunset, since the sun rises and sets in different places. This already gives you a head start on a more interesting picture than if you were to just shoot the same old sunset composition.
Another great thing about sunrise is that often times it can be a bit hazy or foggy in the morning, adding some real drama to your images! I absolutely love when the sun starts to break the horizon and just lights up the fog and makes it pop, especially if you tend to shoot around water where it usually gets more hazy. The shot below was just as the sun was breaking over the buildings, and you can see a large patch of fog underneath the bridge that just started glowing orange when the light hit it! I didn’t even know what I had until I got it home and moved the images to the computer! There is a river that runs beneath the bridge there and on that particular morning just over the water was the only place the fog was gathering. It didn’t last long once the sun came up and burned it off.
Another thing about sunrise is that the colors are usually distinctly different than sunset. The blues tend to be more deep and purpleish, and the oranges are usually very orange as opposed to the reds that you get in the evening. You can usually get a very nice gradient in the sky as the sun is starting to come up. Obviously having clouds makes this even better!
So the next time you need to change things up a bit, consider getting yourself out of bed at 4am (that’s the hardest part of this entire tip…) and driving to your favorite location to see if you can get a fresh take on it. Try shooting somewhere you’ve been a million times before and see if just being there at a different time makes the shot feel any different. I find that shooting early in the morning adds more drama and character to my shots. Let me know if it makes a difference in yours!