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Sunrise Photography Without The Sun

Another fogged out morning on High Peak St Helena. This was at 7.53am, a lot later than dawn but still no luck with clouds lifting.

Another fogged out morning on High Peak St Helena. This was at 7.53am, a lot later than dawn but still no luck with clouds lifting.

The Patience Of A Saint (Photographer) | Sharon Henry

We know the drill – alarm, teeth, clothes, flask, gear, car, go – smooth as a black ops team headed out before first light.  Camera? Check. Tripod? Check. Biscuits? Check. Kindle (seriously)? Check.  It’s all about routine and stealth, and we don’t want to wake the neighbours.

A winding drive to the location, a quick hike by mobile phone torchlight to reach the spot, now we wait, and wait – and wait some more.  Any minute now…

And it doesn’t happen.  Just a stubborn, foggy, dull, washed-out landscape.  WTH.  February on St Helena is supposed to be summer but the weather has been as fickle as a teen with a TV remote.

Venturing out to capture the coloured marls below Bottomwoods in 2010. Greeted with grey clouds (this is at 6am) not what we came to see. Only our dog, Jasper, was happy to be out walking.

Venturing out to capture the coloured marls below Bottomwoods in 2010. Greeted with grey clouds (this is at 6am) not what we came to see. Only our dog, Jasper, was happy to be out walking.

The dawn photographer's life saver - a hot cup of coffee on the hillside at 6am is hard to beat! Although we would probably prefer a cloudless sunrise.

The dawn photographer’s life saver – a hot cup of coffee on the hillside at 6am is hard to beat! Although we would probably prefer a cloudless sunrise.

We came here for the sunrise, all we get are flecks of potential that do no more than tease. If only the swirling mist would shift.  Ever the optimists we pour the coffee and nibble on shortbread scanning the sky for a break in cloud cover.  The sun does rise of course, just not in a showy ‘ta-tah’ fashion but instead, a ‘meh’ so not worth getting out of bed kind of way.  So weak it doesn’t burn off the veil of persistent fog.

Oh the joys of landscape photography at dawn – chasing the sun and looking for breaks has been the story of our life behind the camera on St Helena.  You really need the patience of a Saint – photographer.  And yes, perseverance does have its pay-offs in between, which makes the captures all the more sweeter.  We know, we’ve had plenty of grey starts to make us appreciate a clear sky. It’s enough to keep us having another go.

Here are some of our not so pretty pictures. Sadly there are so many to choose from.

Standing in a graveyard for sunrise - this is the setup at St Matthew's Church, St Helena, at 6.37am hoping for lovely morning light that never quite made it through the clouds.

Standing in a graveyard for sunrise – this is the setup at St Matthew’s Church, St Helena, at 6.37am hoping for lovely morning light that never quite made it through the clouds.

A January morning, right in the middle of St Helena summer - supposedly! Trying to salvage something from the foggy start. Taken at 6.17am on the slopes of Flagstaff with a very wet St Helena Airport in the distance.

A January morning, right in the middle of St Helena summer – supposedly! Trying to salvage something from the foggy start. Taken at 6.17am on the slopes of Flagstaff with a very wet St Helena Airport in the distance.

To photograph the dawn you need to hike in the dark to be in position in time. This is 5.45am sitting at Cox's Battery, on St Helena back in 2008, waiting on the sun to come up. The outline of King & Queen Rock and Prosperous Bay just starting to become visible. This was another blow out.

To photograph the dawn you need to hike in the dark to be in position in time. This is 5.45am sitting at Cox’s Battery, on St Helena back in 2008, waiting on the sun to come up. The outline of King & Queen Rock and Prosperous Bay just starting to become visible. This was another blow out.

Sunrise at Cox's Battery (2008) not the spectacular orange explosion we were hoping for. By 6.11am this was the view down over Turk's Cap, a few rays of sunshine poking through the blanket of cloud and a lone white tern hovering overhead wondering what those crazy humans were up to.

Sunrise at Cox’s Battery (2008) not the spectacular orange explosion we were hoping for. By 6.11am this was the view down over Turk’s Cap, a few rays of sunshine poking through the blanket of cloud and a lone white tern hovering overhead wondering what those crazy humans were up to.

A little hint of how special the dawn light can be - 5.49am on High Peak, St Helena, watching the light come in over Sandy Bay. This early promise was as good as it got, the fog and clouds rolled in soon after this.

A little hint of how special the dawn light can be – 5.49am on High Peak, St Helena, watching the light come in over Sandy Bay. This early promise was as good as it got, the fog and clouds rolled in soon after this.

An attempt to photograph sunrise over Sandy Bay from the Sandy Bay Ridges road. Most memorable thing about this (failed) shoot was setting up in the dark with the spooky sounds of fluttering flax all around.

An attempt to photograph sunrise over Sandy Bay from the Sandy Bay Ridges road. Most memorable thing about this (failed) shoot was setting up in the dark with the spooky sounds of fluttering flax all around.

When the shoot is right next to the road we can make coffee in the back of the car.

When the shoot is right next to the road we can make coffee in the back of the car.

Sunrise photography when the weather is good. From left: Dawn on Diana's Peak, St Helena. Photographing sunrise from a kayak on a lake in Thailand. Photographing dawn breaking over Angkor Wat temple, Cambodia.

Sunrise photography when the weather is good. From left: Dawn on Diana’s Peak, St Helena.
Photographing sunrise from a kayak on a lake in Thailand.
Photographing dawn breaking over Angkor Wat temple, Cambodia.

Sometimes even on a cloudy morning there's a moment of dawn beauty. This is the morning sky over Flagstaff on St Helena at 5.47am in January 2016.

Sometimes even on a cloudy morning there’s a moment of dawn beauty. This is the morning sky over Flagstaff on St Helena at 5.47am in January 2016.

COMMENTS

  • Jean Fowler

    February 25, 2017

    Even the gloomy dark mornings we’ve been having for Summer; you guys make it look spectacular! Keep up the brilliant work.

    • February 26, 2017

      Thanks Jean – makes all those early morning starts not so wasted 🙂

  • Patrick G Henry

    February 24, 2017

    It’s amazing how powerful the clouds is to shield the sun light, despite the dull, foggy and grey clouds there is still a natural beauty. Good pictures and commitment.

    • February 26, 2017

      Thanks Pat – it’s amazing how stubborn the weather can be a times! And when the clouds clear – voila beautiful scenery 🙂

  • Roger Bagley

    February 24, 2017

    Your account makes me even more appreciative of the beautiful shots that you do take.

    • February 26, 2017

      Thanks Roger – unfortunately there are more duds than keepers 🙂

  • Sheila Turvey

    February 24, 2017

    Dedication!,

    • February 24, 2017

      Either that or gluttons for punishment! 🙂

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