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Early Morning Landscape Photography: To Shoot Before or After Sunrise?

When photographing in the early morning, a common question encountered is whether to shoot before or after the sun rises. By making the most of the changes in sunlight and temperature, as well as the movement of clouds, it is possible to achieve a wide variety of photographic expressions regardless of when you choose to shoot. In this article, two photographers introduce their techniques for shooting scenes at sunrise. (Reported by: Toshiki Nakanishi, Makoto Hashimuki)


After Sunrise: Capture changes brought about by the rising temperature

EOS 5D Mark IV/ EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM/ FL: 278mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/16, 1/80 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight
Photo by Toshiki Nakanishi

Toshiki Nakanishi says:

"The blue hour before sunrise is wonderful, but I am always excited by the dramatic changes that occur when the sun rises. The rise in temperature that occurs as the sun begins its ascent leads to changes in air flow, which brings about delightful scene changes from moment to moment. As these changes occur rapidly, you need to act fast as a dramatic scene can come and go in an instant."

For more on capturing vibrant colours during sunrise, check out: 
Capture the Fiery, Vibrant Colours of Sunrise 

Before Sunrise: Use bulb photography to depict the dramatic movement of clouds

7 min
EOS 6D/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 40mm/ Manual exposure (f/10, 7 min, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto
Photo by Makoto Hashimuki

Makoto Hashimuki says:

"The time before sunrise is a period of time during which the human eye is unable to fully capture what it sees, but reveals a world of stunning colours on the camera’s LCD screen. When using long exposure, you can capture the movement of clouds high up in the sky and the flow of the sea of clouds, creating a dynamic image that can easily be turned into a photo with a dreamy feel. Even though you are taking still images, you can make the clouds appear as if they are moving."

Learn more about shooting moving clouds here:
Capturing Drifting Clouds with a 60 sec Exposure

Tip: Try using bulb photography to see how you can express the movement of clouds

10 sec
EOS 6D/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 40mm/ Manual exposure (f/14, 10 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto
Photo by Makoto Hashimuki

The trick to using bulb photography before sunrise is to compose your image with the flow of clouds positioned in the centre. It is important to understand that the duration of your shutter speed will affect how the clouds will ultimately be depicted. If the timing of your shoot is before sunrise when there is a low amount of light, setting shutter speed intervals in terms of minutes offers yet another different, dramatic result as compared to 10-second intervals.


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Makoto Hashimuki

Makoto Hashimuki

Born in 1977 in Shizuoka Prefecture, Hashimuki took up photography after purchasing a mirrorless camera in 2012. Fascinated by Mt. Fuji, he later purchased Canon’s EOS 6D and lenses to pursue more serious photography. His shots of Mount Fuji are featured in many publications in Japan, including photography magazines and calendars

Instagram: @hashimuki


Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Toshiki Nakanishi

Toshiki Nakanishi

Born in 1971 in Osaka. After learning photography on his own, Nakanishi moved the base for his photography activities to the town of Biei located in Kamikawa-gun of Hokkaido. While capturing landscapes that focus on light, he also produces works that bring out the figurative beauty of nature. Head of PHOTO OFFICE atelier nipek.