June 10

2 comments

The Joys of Photographing in Morning Light

By Dan

June 10, 2013

Early morning photography is always a pleasure. After all, there’s something to be said for being right there out in the open when the dawn breaks and reveals your first view of the sun. It makes you feel productive, like you’re not wasting a single second of the day. Another nice thing is that it’s often very quiet and still during the dawn hours, which means that you’re alone with your thoughts, your equipment and your creativity.

From a photography standpoint, shooting under morning light can be extremely rewarding. If the sky at the horizon is relatively clear, the sun will splash bold, beautiful and direct light on your scene. Just like at sunset, everything looks better when you shoot it at sunrise.

However, the intense warm light of sunrise doesn’t always last as long as it does during the late afternoon, because since there are fewer dust particles in the atmosphere at daybreak, simply because all the people who kick that stuff up into air have been asleep for the past 6-8 hour. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still good, it’s just more short-lived.

This means that when you’re shooting in the morning, you might want to pick our your subjects beforehand so that you don’t have to go hunting when the light is the best. That said, there’s also nothing wrong with just wandering for a while with your camera and seeing what unfolds. I do it all the time. 

Remember, even when you find a great subject, keep looking all around you, even directly behind you, and try to be aware of what the sun is doing to other parts of your scene. There have been plenty of times when I’ve been confidently shooting a scene and then realize that the effects of the light 180 degrees behind me are just as interesting, if not better than what I’m looking at.

Here are three photos that I shot at sunrise last month at the Valdez Air Show here in Alaska. All three images were shot just a few minutes apart from each other with the Fuji X20. For the limitations that are inherent in a small sensor camera like this one, the X20 performs superbly well in good light. In other words, the better the light, the better and sharper the X20 is able to render subject matter.

This is pretty much true with any camera, though, which is another reason that you’ll always want to hunt for the good light.

About the author

Hi, I'm Dan Bailey, a 20+ year pro outdoor and adventure photographer, and official FUJIFILM X-Photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.


As a top rated blogger and author my goal is to help you become a better, more confident and competent photographer, so that you can have as much fun and creative enjoyment as I do.


  • Hey Dan, I spent a couple of hours by reading your blog. Nice pics and sotries as well!
    I have been looking for small camera to take with me on my trips and with my family when going on vacation.
    You have convinced me to buy X20 and replace my heavy Nikon D90 because most of the time I was taking pictures only on my iphone due to the weight of D90.
    I bought X10 to my wife on last Xmas. Great camera. I started to take a pics again with the small device 😉 Now I was about to take Sony RX100 with 1″ sensor, but when I hold it in my hands, it appears like computer not camera 🙁 Now I’m definitely decided to buy new X20. Thank you for your reviews and sample pics. Great job Dan! (sorry for my english 🙂 )

  • Thanks for your comment, Pat. I agree, the X20 is so much more enjoyable to hold and use than the RX100. I’m sure you’ll have loads of fun with it!

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    Terry Bourk

    I have read you new book “Behind the Landscape.” I could not “put it down” meaning that I kept at it because each photo you presented/analyzed was interesting and informative. I am trying to develop an eye for composition (both the scene and the light).

    Thank you! The examples you present and the suggestions are very helpful. Purple Mountains, McKinley River and Wonder Lake are fascinating.


    Roger Sinclair

    You have done it again! Another triumph.

    Your generosity to share, the clarity of thought and concise explanation thereof is brilliant. Perhaps I should also mention the beautiful photos and the talent necessary to produce them.

    Thank you, Dan.