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South Carolina – Sunrise Attempt

After I was pretty successful taking sunrise picture in Myrtle Beach last year, I was looking forward to using some of my new gear when I went back this year. The toughest part of sunrise pictures is you really have no idea what you are going to get until you are out there. Clouds are your best friend, but as you walk out in pitch black, last night’s weather forecast only gives you a fuzzy idea of what you are going to get. I usually check out the forecast all the same and try to guestimate the best day to go out. I usually look for cloudy day leading into a clear day, or overnight clearing. One the coast, it gets a little harder as some forecasts are really based on areas inland. On the coast, you can have a completely different result.

The first morning I had chosen, I woke up and started to walk along the beach towards the pier. I could see a few stars, but still had trouble making out the sky. I knew only seeing a few stars meant there was pretty good cloud cover, but I was hoping that when the sun came up, the coastline was a little clearer. I set up a few long exposure shots for the fun of it, and was able to see a few clouds a little better than by naked eye. I will have to see if this becomes a good solution to see the clouds prior to the sun coming up. I didn’t really test it at the time.

As the sky got lighter, I could tell the day was a dud. It was pretty heavy clouds, and the sun eventually came up with no color or drama added to the scene. I played around a little, but bailed early and whet back to the hotel. Looking back on it, I probably should have taken advantage of the time and played with some long exposures, but I was really tired.

I decided to try one more morning before we left. I did the usual guess at the weather and picked the best day. There was a huge possibility that there would be no clouds at all, but I was there and willing to take the chance. I woke up as usual and walked down the beach. The sun started coming up and I could see I was right about the clouds. There was only a few hints of clouds on the horizon, but the colors were still nice enough to set up and shoot. I shot the below photograph in the general spot as the year prior. I really didn’t have to post-process all that much. Just simple color adjustments, and I lightened the sand a little.

With the cloudless sky, every picture was starting to look the same. Without the clouds to hold the color, the light doesn’t change as dramatically. With clouds, you can get a totally different feel from a shot taken only a few minutes later. I probably shot another 20-30 images before I gave up on the sunrise.

The next stage of the outing consisted on playing with my 10-stop ND filter. I set up right next to the pier and started to play around with different exposure times. I still really love the effect these filters give, but I still am having problems getting a perfect exposure. I find that the filter I have also gives a very surreal color cast that I have been yet unable to adjust in Lightroom. Eventually I will figure it out and have to write it down so that I can start getting a natural color from it. I also find that it gets a little underexposed on the edges, so I usually make sure I can crop in post-processing rather than in camera.

Where I find the 10-stop ND filter works best is with Black & White. You don’t get distracted by the color cast, and it gives a cool antique feel sometimes. I wouldn’t consider the shoot successful as there isn’t a single shot that I am considering as portfolio worthy. The only one that is close is the image below.

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