Sun Bursting Forth Over Altwarmbüchener See
One of the best and worst things about nature photography is the patience it requires. Getting a great picture of a beautiful sunrise or the deep blue winter sky above a snow-covered mountain takes work. Whether it means getting up before dawn, squatting in the bushes to get the right angle of a colorful mushroom, waiting around in the cold until something good happens on a winter day or sloshing through the mud when it rains in a forest, nature photos take work. On the plus side, all that effort makes the photos really worth it in the end. The negative side, of course, is that nature photos take work!
Actually, it’s not just the effort that makes nature photography hard. It’s that the time and energy that you put in is not always rewarded. Sometimes you do all the hiking around and setting up your gear, and nature doesn’t cooperate. This is especially true when photographing sunrises.
Almost every day during the first two years after I decided to become I photographer, I honed my skills by getting up before dawn and taking pictures of the Washington, DC skyline as the sun rose behind it. At the beginning, I had no idea whether the sun would light up the sky in a visually pleasing way or not. Even as I became more experienced and got a better understanding of the type of conditions that were optimal for a good sunrise, I could never be 100% sure and often just had to wait patiently to see what Mother Nature would bring me. It was not always fun, but I did get some pretty nice images for my troubles!
I was reminded of those days last week when I got up early to try to catch a sunrise over the Altwarmbüchener See in Hannover, Germany. After weeks of fully overcast mornings, things finally looked promising. There was a large bank of clouds on the horizon, which is what one needs to catch the purple, red and orange wavelengths that paint the sky so beautifully. And more importantly, there was a break in the cloud cover near the horizon, allowing the sunlight to illuminate the front of clouds instead of backlighting them.
Even with those good conditions, though, I still couldn’t be sure that it would be worth going out for. Winter in Hannover is not always pleasant, and I was skeptical about the wisdom of standing around in the cold waiting to see if the sunrise was going to be any good. So I stood looking out our window for a good 20 minutes, waiting for any signs of the first purplish hues in the cloud that presage a good sunrise.
Fortunately, they did finally arrive, so I threw on a coat, grabbed my Nikon D750 and raced over to the lake. I managed to get set up before all the good colors had gone and took some really nice shots, including this panorama view of the first rays of sunlight bursting over the lake, the blues and purples of the clouds not yet fully illuminated by the sun and some backlit puffs of smoke from a nearby factory.