Blue — Red — Gold

Yesterday morning at Nags Head there was an interesting, and perfect—a perfectly interesting—sunrise.

There were the usual clouds in the distance, but also a layer of mist or very low cloud that caught the ruddy orange of the sunrise in a startling but beautiful way for a couple of minutes. It flared out into something that had the look of a Hollywood sunrise as the yellows progressively displaced the reds. By the time the orb broke the surface of the sea the sky was (to my eye) a drab, uninteresting white.

I’ll spare you that last, but let’s have a look at the first three phases, shall we?

The Blue Hour

Figure 1. Blue hour before sunrise. Nags Head, N.C. Photo: author.

The wide-angle view in figure 1 captures the basic elements of the story: clouds low on the horizon that will block the sun as it comes up; mid-ground clouds that will break up the light and give it character with dark streaks; and the faint trails of mist that appear to radiate out of the sunrise toward the viewer. Venus, the bright dot in mid-sky, is not a sharp disc because of the haze. This was shot at f/7.1, ISO 100, for 4 seconds. The Nikkor 14-24 mm f/2.8 lens was set to 14 mm. The camera is a D3400, which means that the 14 mm focal length would be the equivalent of about 20-21 mm on an old film camera.

A Ruddy-orange Moment

Figure 2. Ruddy-orange sunrise. Nags Head, N.C. Photo: author.

For a few glorious moments the sun, just on the verge of crossing over the horizon, lit up the haze with a brilliant ruddy orange which caught the streaks in the low mist close to the viewer (figure 2). The horizon clouds help to even out the exposure, and the dark band of clouds above that help articulate the sky. The light was good enough that with f/10 and ISO 100 this was a 1/6 second exposure, mostly freezing the larger motions of the waves and pretty much freezing sharply the receding water of the previous wave. The 24 mm setting would be like 36 mm on an old film camera: Venus was no longer of interest, so I had cropped in on the atmospheric effects where the oranges were best.

The Golden Hour Begins.

Figure 3. Golden hour begins. Nags Head, N.C. Photo: author.

In figure 3 all of the clouds have moved visibly, and the sun is so close to the horizon that it is throwing its golden light into the higher portions of the haze. There is still an attractive pink cast to the reflection on the receding wave, and the water is all mostly frozen at 1/50 second at f/8 and ISO 100. The focal length is again 24 mm. As I said above, minutes after this image was captured, the whole sky went garbageously white as the sun over-lit the haze.

I am reserving the best image of the series for a limited edition print. It has the striking whitish golds of figure 3 with a good portion of the stunning oranges in figure 2. It also has an interesting dipsy-doodle in the lapping waters of the spent wave where they’ve curved back in upon themselves. That’s a teaser, I suppose, but take heart: I had an equally interesting morning today, though not, I think, one as atmospherically fortunate. I’ll let you see the results of that series tomorrow.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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