To a photographer, the term sunrise or sunset doesn’t always mean that exact moment when the sun breaks the horizon. To me it means from when the first or last bit of light appears in the sky, long before or after the sun touches the horizon, until when the sun is well above the horizon. Storms and other such phenomenon can change the color from warm to cool. It can be an image with no sun showing, or one that shows the sun and only the sun.
Sunrise/sunset is a great way to show the beauty of special places. Places don’t always have to be shown with maximum detail. Mystery can be a powerful tool.
The first image below was made in Colorado followed by a picture from the Pacific Ocean at Washington State’s Olympic National Park, the next is the Lake Michigan Shoreline in Illinois, and then we have White Sands New Mexico.
Semi abstracts like the first two images below, to full abstractions like the final two photos, are a big part of sunrise/sunset photography. The top picture was made at Horicon Marsh NWR, Wisconsin, the second comes from Lake Michigan, Racine, Wisconsin, the third was made on a foggy morning at Wolfe Lake, Wisconsin and the fourth, well your guess is as good as mine.
Some of my favorite sunrise/sunsets are enhanced by great cloud formations. The first image was made at the previously mentioned Wolfe Lake Wisconsin, and the second was made at a small mountain lake just outside of Leadville Colorado. Not a lot of warmth in this last shot.
I enjoy it when photographic specialists move out of their comfort zone. On some rare occasions I have found photographers who struggled with the transition, but that is rare as most top photographers can photograph anything.
I have shared superb images from wildlife photographer Charles Glatzer before. Here we see Charles branch out into the world of landscape imagery. This was made at Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone N.P.
I think this image warrants some further comments. If John or Jane Doe came upon this scene, they would likely make one of two pictures. Picture number one is similar to this but much more confusing. The branches, conifer tree, sun and hillside would be jumbled together. Their point of view would be less discerning. The other choice would be to walk to the shoreline and make a simpler shot of shoreline, fog, sun and hillside. No trees at all. I think most of us would prefer the second shot. Clean and simple almost always works. Charles (clearly) carefully composed all of the elements you see via his choices of focal length, shooting position vertically speaking, and depth of field.
There is most likely some post processing work that was done here. Done…..not overdone. Part of the magic of this image is the exposure. The sun is backlighting the scene but we can still see marvelous details in the foreground. It is possible that a multi stop graduated neutral density was used, but more likely (I think) some sort of HDR imaging was used. I have no problem with either scenario.
The truth is that both sunrise/sunset silhouettes, and sunrise/sunset images that show detail in the foreground, are valid and realistic pictures. We have very adoptable eyes and an equally adoptable brain. A little time spent “seeing” will deliver both interpretations to us. When you are in the field making sunrise/sunset images, try to accomplish this. You will see both the darkest silhouette and a very detailed foreground within moments of each other. You as the artist, can then choose which view suits your personal vision.
I have made a long ( 40 + years) study of what we (or at least I) see with our eyes and our brains, and how it relates to photography. There are many “real” ways to view any subject, depending not only on the light, but how we see that light as we organize our eyes and our brains in an attempt to make order out of chaos.
Photography is light.
Have a sunny day and God Bless, Wayne