It is probably a good thing that I can get by with very little sleep as my favourite time for being out to take photos is as dawn emerges until the sun rises. In Scotland in the summer my willingness to get up early is severely tested as I need to be out of my bed between 2 and 2.30 am. as sunrise is just after 4 and it can start getting light up to an hour and a half before hand. This picture of the Distillery at Bruichladdich on Islay was taken just before 3 am. and you can see how light it is already.
My reasons for liking this time of day are not only related to photography. To stand in one place watching the world about you being slowly illuminated and coming to life is always inspiring, even in sub zero temperatures, or in the case of the west coast of Scotland as midges come to life and plague you. Sometimes the wildlife is rather more appealing than midges, I have had badgers trundling past me quite unconcerned if I stay still. More often than not you have where ever you are to yourself with a wonderful sense of solitude. For instance, hot spots like Avebury are deserted.
The biggest plus for these early rises is that sometimes an ordinary scene can be made magical by a combination of light and weather and you get to see it when most don’t. Take Stonehenge for example, when you drive past in on the A303 it does not look that exciting, even if it is one of the world’s great monuments. Like most photographers I check out both weather and the position of the moon. Last September I noticed that a full moon would be setting over Stonehenge to the west and it would be cold with minimal cloud cover, that was enough for me to get in position at 4 am. to watch and see what happened. I was about 1/3 of a mile to the east of the stones on a hillside level with the stones but with a valley between us. The A303 was a short distance to my left. Initially the moon looked very nice, but there was nothing of great interest. As the dawn gave a slight light, a pillow of mist started forming in the valley, which as it got lighter grew until the valley and the stones were obscured by mist. So I had a blanket of mist illuminated by the moon. It really was not very promising, and I suspected that it would be another trip where I never pressed the shutter. But, I just kept waiting and just after 5 am. the mist over the stones evaporated and I had the stones emerging from the mist with the moon above. I pressed the shutter release a couple of times and then the mist enveloped the stones again. The stones, moon and mist had been visible for perhaps 30 seconds, but I had seen it and I do not think anybody else had as there was no traffic on the A303.
All the pictures so far in this post have been as a result of getting up at stupid o’clock. You don’t always have to get up early to see in the dawn. For instance, for the picture below, I’d had a nice lie in followed by a good breakfast and then driven an hour or so in the early morning gloom to my location. After that I watched one of the best sunrises I had ever seen and it was about 11am. I was in Iceland in early January.