This is by far my favourite time for photography. There is a wonderful, although brief, golden and soft quality to Autumn and early Winter mornings.
On my latest trip out, in late November 2016, the sun rose at 8:00 Am, so it was not bad at all getting out in time. I went to our local reservoir, where I know the sun rises in Winter at the end of the lake. It's very helpful to know stuff like that: what time sunrise is, where it rises and where it will be when you get there.
Outside, it was -6 degrees C. The lake was frozen around the edges and there was a wonderful heavy frost. The sun was rising quickly, and for about half an hour, everything was bathed a deep, liquid red. Even the heavy frost was red. There wasn't a breath of wind and the lake was like a mirror.
This is surely the best time of the day! Make sure that you're dressed up warm, particularly your head, and you'll be fine. Lots of thin layers are best, since they're warmer and you can remove them as the morning warms up. If you've got warm feet and a warm head, you're fine. A flask is a must, not least because it gives you time to notice- really notice- things around you. Because, that's what you're there for: being a photographer is more about seeing images and the technical stuff merely allows you to capture the image you've already seen.
Walk slowly, take your time. Welcome to ordinary, because it is usually transient: those spiders webs or those dead plants and leaves, they probably won't be there tomorrow. That's what I love about this time of year: there, amongst the seeming death that Winter brings, you can see reminders of last Spring and Summer: an Autumn leaf, encased in ice, or dead Willow Herb, its purple flowers and fluffy seeds long gone. Or a robin, following me about for food, and even perching on my camera lens. Ducks and geese fly in, and it's amazing how sound carries at that time of day.
As the morning wears on, the light changes from bright red, to yellow, and then it gets progressively “colder” (bluer).
Noting and using the colour of light is very important. Reddish light is known as “warm” whilst blueish light is “cold”. It's all to do with wavelengths, but humans react differently to cold or warm light. Not surprisingly, cold light makes us feel cold. You can use this to emphasise a cold day, to stress Winter's cold, or you can contrast morning's red light with berries shrouded in frost: red against the white frost.
Notice, also, that I constantly defy the old “rule” of not shooting into the light. Well, that one is broken by most photographers. But the unrestricted light of the low sun often flares too much even with the cleanest lens and can “burn out” the image. A good trick is to “hide” the sun behind a branch or tree trunk or similar. Make sure your camera lens is clean!
Lenses used during this shoot are the usual 3 I use: a Canon 400mm, a 14mm and a 50mm Macro lens for the close-ups of the berries.
And at this point, just to get you thinking about the ordinary, I'd like to pay tribute to the humble Hawthorn. Just because it is everywhere, people seem to ignore it. Yet few other trees or shrubs put on a show like it. It is one of the first to get its leaves in Spring, followed by masses of beautifully scented flowers in late April and May, and then in Autumn, and lasting well into Winter, we get masses of bright red berries. Celebrate the ordinary: make it extraordinary by shooting in extraordinary light! By the time I was leaving for home, around 10:30 Am, (the light had become too blue), the walkers, joggers and so on were just arriving. You can bet that few had any idea what that place was like just an hour or two ago, and most would be stunned to know. They were just too late to find out. Take my word for it, grab your camera- any camera- and go and see for yourself. Choose a day with a clear sky in the morning, and don't let the cold put you off. Take your time, and , above all, take lots of photographs. You don't need any where so exotic: many of today's images could easily have been shot in a garden, or a local park or church yard.
Dead leaves. Dead plants, reminders of last Summer. Ducks and geese, frost upon last Summer's grass, or foraging birds, or perhaps a weak Winter sun rising over a mirrored lake. It's there. Go and see it.
Check out the photographs: HERE