I seem to have been going through a love affair with early morning light for the last few years. In general, I didn’t used to be an up-early person. My hectic working life always made me feel the need for some extra sleep, especially the late morning hours. For some strange reason my body seemed to relax and enjoy sleep much better during this time. I remember that, even when my kids were, well, kids (the youngest one is over 20 now), and every Sunday morning they were looking for company to have breakfast together, my body couldn’t handle it. The fact that I have always been self-employed and worked long hours doesn’t help either. And although resting for a bit longer during Sunday morning was probably good for my body, present day regrets are not good for the mind; I wish I had spent more time with them.
Back To The Future
Leaving those memories behind, waking up very early on a Sunday morning these days is not a problem. Could it be an age thing? Could it have something to do with the fact that I do not do much physical work any more and my body has less need for more sleep? I have no idea, probably so. The fact is that I love getting up very early now, going out and catching the first light of a new dawn. I must admit that I am much more sensitive now when it comes to nature and its appreciation – it happens when one gets heavily involved with landscape photography.
More to the point, early morning means soft light and, for many days, absolutely stunning light. I find that on these days I enjoy making images by pointing the camera towards the opposite direction of the rising sun at least 15 minutes before the actual sunrise takes place. The light on the landscape at this time of the morning is soft, a lot less contrasty, gentle and, as we landscape photographers say, to die for – well, I wouldn’t go that far but you get the point. There is a certain calm in the atmosphere, especially when the weather is mild and there is no wind to disturb the scene. I do appreciate that shutter speeds are much longer during this time and that handholding a camera is out of the question but this is what we have invented tripods for.
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The last time I was at that same spot at Lake Buttermere, in the Lake District in England, I used a medium format camera to capture the same scene on film. It was a different time of year and the sun was rising behind those distant mountains (Fleetwith Pike). Although it was a really lovely morning and the beautiful sunrise did indeed materialise, I did not manage to capture a good picture or at least a picture that I would like to have on my wall.
A couple of years later, a different time of year and a cloudy sky. You must agree that the situation doesn’t really sound very promising. And yet, the cloudy sky provided stunningly diffused light conditions, the good weather provided superb reflections on the water and my exceptionally great early morning mood provided abundant inspiration. It is strange the way our mood affects our photography most of the time, and the way weather affects our mood. Isn’t landscape photography a way of passing time to die for?