Through the Viewfinder with Marian Howell

Approaching Brainard Marsh beach I saw skies through the break in the trees at the end
of the trail that made me optimistic for a colorful sunrise in a little over 45 minutes. The
time was 4:15am. Sunrise was due at 5:07am, the earliest one of the year! I planned to
be there early to take advantage of the blue hour, that hour before the sun comes up. If
conditions are ripe and the colors explode I want to be there! And that glimpse of sky
told me we might have a good sunrise!

When I arrived at the beach, I put down my gear and simply admired the view. Looking
around, I asked myself, “What catches my eye?”. The long dark cloud along the horizon
was amazing and just beginning to reflect the sun from below, the gradient glow along
the horizon was orange gold, the water was blue or gold depending upon which part of
the sky was it was reflecting, and the beach had a slight rosy glow. I stood still in my
tracks and drank it in.

Meanwhile, I had been joined by two fellow board members, Diane, with her IPad, and
Alan who had a compact camera with a zoom lens. They had come to experience
sunrise photography for themselves. We were all entranced by that cloud!

My mind was overwhelmed with compositions to shoot. First, I wanted an overview, a shot that has it all! A wide angle to show off the majesty and glory of the moment
would be perfect. I began with a few shots with my everyday wide angle lens, then I
switched to my longest telephoto lens for a couple of shots to see how close in I could
get to those more intimate details. Finally I put on a modest wide angle, and settled in.
My plan was to shoot a blue hour multi-shot panorama of that incredible cloud.
The challenge was the quickly changing light. The quicker the series of shots can be
taken, the better the blend will be because of the shorter amount of time for the light to

Less than 20 minutes until sunrise and the light is transitioning rapidly! I did a second
pano series with a slightly longer lens. With less than 5 minutes to sunrise, I put on the
telephoto again. When the sun began to peek over the horizon, I went back to the wide
angle to try to capture it before the sun came at us out full throttle.
I was spellbound by the colors!

As the sun came up, I turned around and followed the light as it came straight over the
horizon to the shore. The golden hour had arrived with its long shadows and bright
warm light. A fishing boat headed out into the Bay. Birdsong filled the air. Father
osprey returned with breakfast for the family. I feasted on the light on the beach and the
grass and the trees. Alan shot birds and took closeups of shells on the beach in sweet
light, while Diane moved around shooting more landscapes and birds. We were
captivated by the light.

Gradually we noticed the light getting flatter, and we knew we were done. By 6am we
were on the trail headed back to our cars.

We had witnessed a glorious sunrise, and we still had the whole day ahead of us!

Story and photos courtesy of Marian Howell.