Stephen Studd Photography

Travel Gardens Plants

Photographing sunrises, be in place early.

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There is a time between night and actual sunrise that is really magical in photography. This time of day is my favourite, it has a unique light and colour and is generally still and quiet. You also get to witness the sky lottery; what colours are going to be produced, how long will it last, is it going to completely cloud over, which quite often happens. When the conditions all come together a joy fills the heart and you know instinctively that you have the photograph you came for.

digital travel photography holidays tours to Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, Marrakech and Gower Wales hosted by Stephen Studd photographer myanmar hosted by Stephen Studd

Angkor Wat, before sunrise. Manfrotto tripod and head: Canon 6D, Canon 24-70mm lens: ISO 400 – 30 sec @f8 – 0.3ND soft grad filter

You will need a torch to get you to your location pre sunrise, it also helps you with setting your camera dials in low level light conditions. For the photograph above, the scene was really dark to the eye. I set my camera up on my tripod and used a remote release for mirror lock as exposures can be long and you don`t want camera shake. I took a test shot at an extremely high ISO to see whether I had focussed correctly with manual focus. If you use autofocus it is best to move it to manual focus as cameras find it hard to focus in very low light conditions. Once I knew the camera was focused I locked the focus and set my ISO to 400, which still gave a 30 second exposure at f8. I always photograph on manual mode and as the light changes quickly from near dark to sunrise don’t forget to keep adjusting your camera settings. I always have my camera set to RAW for high quality images. I used a 0.3ND soft grad filter to balance the sky with the foreground. I could of used a 0.6ND but wanted the water to be slightly darker than the sky.

Depending on where you are photographing on the planet determines the length of time before first light and sunrise, in the tropics you generally only have about half an hour pre-sunrise.

When it starts to get much lighter, be ready for the actual sunrise, which will give you a whole new feel to your scene. As you can see between the two photo’s the cloud had completely disappeared in the photograph below, which was taken 45 minutes after the photograph above. I had waited for the sun to rise to give me another saleable image from the same morning. Both images have been published in several travel magazines and books.

For the shot below, in my last blog post ‘How to Shoot into the Sun’, it explains how to achieve this effect in your photographs

digital travel and landscape photography holidays, vacations, photo tours and workshops to Asia, Cambodia: Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, sunrise: Manfrotto tripod and head; Canon 6D, Canon 24-70mm lens:              ISO 100, f16 @ 1/500

Get out and enjoy this spectacular time of day, it stills the mind and fills the soul with joy!


I run photography holidays and tours to Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and in the Gower, Wales, please visit the website for full itineraries and information: www.digitalphotographyholidays.com

Newsletter subscribers receive special offers throughout the year on my travel photography holidays and landscape photography workshops, you can subscribe here

‘May the light be with you’



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Author: Stephen Studd Photography

Stephen graduated from LCP in London in 1987 with a 2:1 BA Honours degree in photography. Since then he has travelled the world as a professional freelance travel & garden photographer. His photography has been published in many areas around the globe; from front cover of National Geographic magazine, to countless travel books, brochures and print media. His work has also been used in many advertising campaigns, with clients such as Fiat, Citigroup, Caribou Coffee, Expedia, BBC and countless others and his photography has picked up numerous international awards.. Stephen leads travel photography holidays and tours to Burma, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Vietnam & the USA. He also leads Bluebell photography workshops in Gloucestershire and landscape photography workshops in the Gower, Wales. http://www.digitalphotographyholidays.com Stephen can be contacted for commissions via his photography website.

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