Every photographer will agree that sunrise photography is one of the best times of day to indulge in some snapping, but managing to make it out of bed in time is another thing entirely.
Here are nine tips to inspire you to drag yourself from your slumber before sunrise and make the most of that magical early morning light.
1. Investigate the scene the day before
It’s not always easy to know where the best place to shoot at sunrise will be if you’re only in the location for a short period. It’s worth having a look around the day before if you have the time.
Deal pier, Kent, UK
2. Ask locals for some advice on the best place to head
In all but the most remote of areas there will be knowledgeable locals – shopkeepers, waiting staff in cafés etc – who might be able to point you to places a little more off the beaten track.
Kolukkumalai tea plantation, Kerala/Tamil Nadu border, India
3. Use a compass to check the sunrise position
Even if you’re staying on the east coast and you’re sure the sun will rise from behind the sea, it’s always worth checking a compass first (your smartphone probably has you covered) as a little kink in the coastline could see your view dramatically altered.
Smartphone app The Photographer’s Ephemeris tells you all sorts of localised facts about your chosen location and can help you work out what the sun will shine on as it peeps over the horizon.
Jokulsárlón beach, Iceland
4. Pack your bag the night before
If you’ve only got five minutes between waking and heading out in the morning, you don’t want to waste valuable time fretting about whether you’ve got your cable release or filters with you. It’s wise to make sure you’ve got everything you’ll need before you go to sleep.
And don’t forget to pack some emergency snacks to keep you going until breakfast.
Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India
5. Head to further northerly or southerly latitudes for longer in bed
There’s no excuse to miss the best of the morning light when the sun doesn’t rise till 9 or 10am, or maybe even later depending on how far north you go in winter months (and this goes for places at a similar latitude in the southern hemisphere in summer).
There’s plenty of time for your eight hours sleep as well filling up on the B&B breakfast before heading out.
Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden
6. Look around at what else the ‘the magic hour’ is illuminating
It’s not all about the moment in which that glowing orb pops over the horizon. Take a look around you at what the low light of the sun is illuminating. There’s a transcendental quality of light that brings out the hues of the landscape in ways in which make you realise that watercolourists or impressionist painters weren’t just on loads of drugs after all.
HMS Belfast, London, UK
7. Camp out the night before
The best way to minimise travel time the next morning is to camp out as near to your chosen location as possible. If you’re lucky, you may only need to open your tent flap to reveal a stunning vista.
The causeway to Lindisfarne, Northumberland, UK
8. Don’t be put off by a patchy forecast
With accurate forecasts and apps that can predict the weather down to the hour, it’s easy to be put off by a less than perfect forecast the night before – but even if the app tells you it’ll be mostly cloudy, it’s still worth setting the alarm.
You never really know what local climatic conditions will give rise to, and clouds can add immeasurably to the drama of your photographs.
Clacton-on-Sea pier, Essex, UK
9. Keep your eyes and ears open for other early risers
Many of the world’s creatures are far more active at dawn and dusk – particularly in warmer climates when the air is cooler – but it’s the more reclusive animals you’ll find at dawn because there’s much less human activity to interrupt them at this time. Take advantage of this and snap away if something catches your eye.
Poilão island, Guinea Bissau
All images © Diana Jarvis. You can see more of Diana's work on her website.