(Actually, about eight pictures.)
Capturing dawn presents some technical problems – photographic and geographic. A “dawn” picture may be taken before the sun comes up, or after. But somehow it has to meet our expectations of what dawn looks like.
One of the difficulties is figuring out where the sun will be coming up. NOAA has a great web site that lets you calculate matters solar. One thing you can do is calculate the azimuth of the sun (the point at or above the horizon, expressed as an angle, measured clockwise from north) observed from any particular point (e.g. If I’m standing at the corner of the Metro parking garage at sunrise, which direction will I face to see the sun as it rises, or an hour later, etc.). Operationalize this information a couple of different ways: (1) With a decent handheld compass, you can line up your camera in advance to capture the rising sun; or (2) by using Google maps, you can identity landmarks that can be used to align the shot.
Here is info on the pictures. You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Maps to see some of my shooting positions:
Opening picture: I was looking for a general shot and figured that shooting across the water would be good. I went to Google Maps and looked for a location down the Potomac from Washington, DC that would give me clear shot. I picked the Virginia shore looking towards Fort Washington, MD. The very faint light-colored vertical object near the water under the sun is the Fort Washington Light. I selected a shooting position just off the bike path to Mt. Vernon using the NOAA site. (38.711318, -77.051588) (Nikon D300 on tripod with Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 lens; 1/250 @ f/8, ISO 800, 19mm.)
Philadelphia: This is one of those shots that makes you glad you remembered to take your camera along. I was on a business trip and looked out the window early in the morning. (Voigtlander Bessa rangefinder film camera, handheld with Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 lens.)
Commute: I tried this shot the week before from the top deck of the Metro parking garage in Vienna — but the sun was a little too far to the right (over that clump of trees). I went to the NOAA site and found out that the following weekend was probably my only chance from that location until autumn. On shooting morning I set up the tripod and made shots over a period of time. I collapsed the tripod and had put it in the car when I looked back, and saw this. No time for a tripod, but I used a stabilized lens. (38.878309, -77.272347 ) (Nikon D300 handheld with Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens – stabilization on; 1/125 @ f/4, ISO 400, 102mm.)
Dulles: This shot happened in the opposite way from the commuting picture. The selected frame is one of a few shots I made checking the camera setup — before the sun actually came up. Shooting as the sun rose, the terminal “paled” out and lost that glow. (BTW: I emailed the airport authority media relations office ahead of time to advise them what I would be shooting. They only asked that I call police operations when I showed up. The police were very pleasant when I called them.) (38.953767, -77.451961) (Nikon D300 on tripod with Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 lens; 1/10 @ f/4, ISO 200, 32mm)
Car: I knew that I should have a road shot, so I rigged the Benbo tripod in the car. I checked the map and saw some straight east-west stretches of Highway 7 west of Leesburg, VA. As I drove west, I was checking my mirrors and saw that the time was right. I made four laps back and forth between two overpasses. A shot from earlier that morning is also posted on this blog. (39.144473, -77.68791 to 39.143808, -77.655573) (Nikon D300 on Benbo tripod with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens; 1/320 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 800, 11mm.)
Krakow: I discovered how nice it is to walk around Krakow early in the morning on the last day of my first trip there. For these pictures I had another project in mind that didn’t really pan out, but the sequence of four worked out fine for this slideshow. The first three frames show for a little less than one second each in the slideshow. (50.062472, 19.936835) (Olympus E-1 on tripod with Zuiko 11-22mm f/3.5 lens; 1 sec @ f/8, ISO 100, 11mm.)
Zoo: The National Zoo in Washington DC is open around the clock. In the summer you can beat the crowds and beat the heat by showing up really early – and also find parking in their lots. This shot just happened. (Nikon F100, film, on monopod with Tokina 300mm f/2.8 lens
Airplane: This is the source photo for my blog banner and is discussed in an earlier blog entry. From a technical perspective, this is an almost hopeless picture. The one I used in the slideshow hasn’t been fixed up in PhotoShop like the blog banner version. (Minox EC camera, film, handheld.)