Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Cambridge sunrises

There have been some quite striking sunrises the last few weeks in Cambridge, but as always the challenge is to be at the right place at the right time. In the winter a 7:30 to 8am start is positively civilised.

I'm often sitting in my kitchen eating breakfast watching a great sunrise while I tuck into my fruit and fibre. Sometimes I jump up and dash out, down the road and then 50 yards down the farm track to try and grab a shot.

Stapleford frosty sunrise
Stapleford cracking sunrise
Other times I don't quite make it in time, the moment has passed or rather it never really came.

Farm track Stapleford
The farm track disappointing light 

Stapleford sunrise
B&W 6 stop ND filter (long exposure)

In these circumstances I frequently use my B&W 6 stop or 10 stop ND filter. Lengthening the exposure often brings out the colours in the sky. It also seems to reduce the dynamic range a little meaning you are less likely to clip the highlights. Reds are always the first to clip on Canon cameras, so it's good to check the RGB histogram on your cameras rear screen not just the highlights and shadows.

A little further from home requires a bit more effort. 10 Minutes in the car gets me to Grantchester.

Grantchester sunrise
Grantchester dawn

Persistence usually pays off . I always check the weather forecast, favouring times when it looks changeable around sunrise. Two weeks ago I was convinced all was looking good, a frost during the night, clear skies clouding up just around dawn and while driving over to Grantchester in the dark there was a hint of greater things. Alas sunrise came and went without any photo opportunities. I took 3 photos of a frosty puddle then headed home. Last Saturday Phil (a photo friend) had arranged a quick shoot before the Men's Breakfast at Church. We needed to be close to Church which was a little limiting, but what a cracking sunrise.

River Cam sunrise
River Cam sunrise

Despite being early and seeing the colour develop I couldn't decide on a good composition. I tried out a few shots looking across Midsummer Common down to the river, but it just wasn't working. In the end I quickly composed a 2 shot panorama looking down the Cam. Later on, back at home, I decided to go for a square crop to exclude the white minibus on the left bank. I was a little disappointed I hadn't been in a better location, but the breakfast made up for it!

I'm still striving for the perfect Cambridge location for sunrise, a few others I've tried out recently include:

Mullard radio telescopes sunrise
Mullard radio telescopes - just beyond Barton

Clare Bridge sunrise
The Cambridge Backs & Colleges

Ditton Meadows sunrise
Ditton Meadows on a frosty morning
Beyond all else I need to get out more, especially during the winter when sunrise is at a civilised hour. All the times I've stood around in the dull, cold and wet are eclipsed when the sky lights up with a cracking sunrise.


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