High Pressure and Predawn Colors

This morning was cold. Really it was the first truly cold morning that we have had this season with temps at 30 degrees as I drove down the beach at 4:45 am. The Outer Banks is gripped in a high pressure system for the day which predictably gives up cold nights and cobalt blue skies without a cloud in sight. Knowing that the only color I was going to find in the morning sky would be the array of predawn pastels over the horizon, I headed down south to Roanoke Island.

Mornings like these are perfect for silhouettes and invoking serenity through your photographs. Skies bursting with color in the clouds offer a dramatic flair to the landscape. Cloudless, windless mornings on the other hand will afford you about 30 minutes to an hour of some of your best conditions for creating images with a soft almost Zen like appeal to them. Reflections help, as does a somewhat romantic, or more appropriately, nostalgic subject. Hence the 4:30 alarm and hour long drive for me to this specific location.

Pulling up to the docks along the Manteo waterfront at about 6 am, the sky was still black, stars shown bright, and a handful of dog walkers worked their way along the boardwalk. The docks were slick with the season’s first frost, giving folks something more akin to a shuffle than a stroll this clear brisk morning. The weather was perfect. A strong east wind had driven the ocean up to the foot of the dunes the night before, but this morning the air was completely still.

At this time of the morning, that is, just before the sky begins to glow, 30 second long exposures are the norm. Though with my wildlife photography I photograph on aperture priority (Av for you Canon folks) 99% of the time, this time of the day I am 100% manual. When you need the utmost control over your camera’s exposure settings, there is really no substitute – especially when light begins to change rapidly.

The series of images that accompany this post are basically in order of time in which I created them – the top being just as the sun began to peak above the horizon. I am doing this so that you can see the difference in light and how quickly it changes at this time. And as it changes, so too does the feeling of the image. Once again, this is why you need to understand manual exposure so that you can keep pace with a rapidly changing situation.

All in all, I was pretty happy about the morning. There are a few new ideas and compositions that I saw while I was out there that will inevitably drag me back down the next time the weather is right. The only thing I would have done differently in retrospect, was lowered my tripod just a touch more to bring the horizon line down just a touch so as to aid the mirror like reflection of the scene.


This entry was posted in Landscape Photography.