Before Dawn, 2005
(Click on photo for larger image)
In the lessons of photography you read a lot about the “Golden Hour,” that magical time just before sunset when the debris in the earth’s lower atmosphere so filters the last direct rays of the sunlight that they cast a golden glow on everything. I’m as much a lover of this time as the next person. But I’ve learned that shooting in the Golden Hour or in its sunrise counterpart is, as the old saying goes, like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s hard to take a bad picture at sunrise or during the Golden Hour.
But there’s yet another pair of times I’ve grown to love. They are the moments before sunrise and after the Golden Hour. The picture above, for example, was taken just before sunrise. A different camera in a steadier hand might have captured a more precise depiction of the moment. I, on the other hand, was shooting without the benefit of a tripod. But I like the result.
One of the great pleasures of today’s generation of sophisticated digital cameras is that they’re very perceptive of the variations of light and color at times when your eyes aren’t. A slow exposure taken in the dark of night will reveal a light blue sky that your eye wouldn’t notice. Before Dawn was taken almost a half hour before the sun crosses the horizon. I could not with my own eyes detect the gradation of light in the sky that the camera noted.
Before Dawn benefited from this digital perception and such elements as the foam of the surf at the left, the white clothing of the woman in the center, the lamps of the boardwalk and the lights on a fishing pier in the distance that provide a nice horizontal line linking the built up environment to the lady and thence to the ocean. The low angle from which I shot makes the surf more dramatic and draws everything together. The photograph violates the “rule of thirds” and commits the sin of putting the horizon smack dab in the center of the frame. I compensated for this, however, by cropping the image as you see it here.
I don’t know what the lady in the photograph was doing out that early. I like to think she was, like me, enjoying the cool breeze, the sound and energy of the waves and the emptiness of this normally crowded beach.