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  • Betty Girardeau

Time Before Dawn

Yesterday I mentioned something about Saturday's Blue Hour as being a bit more pink than blue. This image may better explain what I meant. Even the low lying clouds in the valley are rather pink. While the actual sunrise (or sunset, for that matter) happen relatively quickly, the period before that is almost an hour long, each one providing a new look to the sky. There are actually five scientific- astronomical steps to both sunrises and sunsets, each of them having something to do with how many degrees the sun is below or above the horizon. But iit is the Golden and Blue hours that make dawn and dusk shoots so special because during that time the lighting is softer and the color ranges can go from pastels to vibrant reds and oranges. When the sun is about 18 degrees below the horizon during the Blue Hour there is still light, but not enough to cast any shadows. And typically you can see some beautiful pastel colors in the sky. It is also a wonderful time to be able to capture stunning silhouettes. All sunrises are different, and you never know what you will see and be able to capture. You have to work fast, too, often changing camera settings to deal with the ever changing light. It might seem silly to some people to drive for an hour or more just to get to a location for a dawn shoot that will take less time than the time it took you to get there. Once I get passed the unpleasantness of having to get myself up and out of bed, I find going out to capture a sunrise to be really quite exciting. About the time the first golden hint of the sun's disc begins to be visible, I typically find myself thinking about and humming George Harrison's tune "Here Comes the Sun." In an interview in 1969 Harrison was asked why he had written those lyrics. The day those words came to him were toward the end of one of Britain's interminably long, dark winters. Harrison had been in a round of business meetings and came out from them into a sunny day. "It was just sunny and it was all just the release of that tension that had been building up on me," he said. I can definitely appreciate that feeling whenever I go out for a dawn shoot. Every minute before it actually pops up creates a sense of wonder and tension, and then, there it is...."Here comes the sun" indeed.

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