A Study in Light – A Cornish Sunrise

Dawn really has become my favourite time of day of late and my experiences yesterday morning just confirmed my belief that there is nothing quite so glorious as sitting on a beach, on rocks or on the top of a cliff waiting to greet a brand new day with your camera primed.

This is a series of photographs, some long exposures, some regular shots that document the changing light over the course of about 45 minutes as the sun rose.  I used a graduated neutral density filter to allow for a balanced exposure given the brightness of the sky, shooting directly into the sun.

If you’re thinking of buying a set of graduated neutral density filters, I wouldn’t bother with the soft variety.  It’s important to position a hard graduated filter correctly to ensure you don’t get a line across your picture but I don’t believe a soft grad ND filter is a substitute for not positioning your filter correctly in the first place.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. Click for a clearer sharper view.. :-)

_1AT0148 frw56mm f/11 301 sec. ISO-100 Lee 10 stop Neutral Density filter plus a Lee 0.9 Hard Graduated Neutral Density Filter and a B+W Circular Polarisier

Spacer 150mm_1AT0149 frw56mm f/11 301 sec. ISO-100 Lee 10 stop Neutral Density filter plus a Lee 0.9 Hard Graduated Neutral Density Filter and a B+W Circular Polarisier

Spacer 150mm_1AT0176frw56mm f/11 1/50 sec. ISO-100 Lee 0.9 Hard graduated Neutral Density Filter plus a B+W Circular polarising filter

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_1AT0225 frw38mm f/22 1/5 sec. ISO-100 Lee 0.9 Hard graduated Neutral Density Filter plus a B+W Circular Polarising filter

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_1AT0242 frw24mm f/22 181 sec. ISO-100 Lee 10 stop Neutral Density filter plus a Lee 0.9 Hard Graduated Neutral Density Filter and a B+W Circular Polarisier

Spacer 150mm_1AT0399 frw24mm f/20 1/5 sec. ISO-100 Lee 0.9 Hard graduated Neutral Density Filter plus a B+W Circular Polarising filter

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87 responses

  1. The colors in the first shot are gorgeous and that last shot is mystical, with the light edging the coastline. Beautiful photographs and reflections on dawn. Also, as one who loves to shoot sunsets and sunrises, a hearty thanks for your input on filters. :-) Date: Fri, 9 Aug 2013 16:51:22 +0000 To: vivianvedder@msn.com

    August 9, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    • Thank you Vivian and you’re welcome, of course. :-)

      August 9, 2013 at 7:06 pm

  2. Can I take it your first shot used a 10stop neutral density filter and not a 10stop grad?
    For me the first one ‘wins’ hands down. The quality of the light on the water is awesome.

    August 9, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    • Thank you Stephen and yes, not thinking straight, a 10 stop ND with the 0.9 ND grad stacked. Duly ammended.

      August 9, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    • Oh and I keep forgetting to mention the B+W circular polariser..

      August 9, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      • :) It’s always the polarising filter we forget! ;)
        I also notice you shot at ISO400….

        August 10, 2013 at 7:17 am

      • They should all be 100, ISO is one setting I very rarely change. I’d rather carry a tripod than change the ISO any day of the week.. ;-)

        August 10, 2013 at 7:36 am

      • :) – I’m with you on that – it takes a lot to persuade me to move from iso100 – but that’s a lot to do with the quality of the sensor I have on my dslr, it’s a bit long in the tooth by today’s standards.

        August 10, 2013 at 8:32 am

      • :-)

        August 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm

  3. Wow, breathtaking! These photos really helps one appreciate how wonderful nature is and I’m sure so much more in person :)

    August 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    • Thank you Norma. It was an exceptionally beautiful morning. :-)

      August 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm

  4. infinityx17

    Wow. These are stunning. I’m so proud that someone captures how beautiful Cornwall is, as someone who lives here and loves photography…these shots are just wow.

    August 9, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    • Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. :-)

      August 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm

  5. I like this series! 1st & 5th are my favorites. Really nice to see somebody using ND filters effectively. The shades of blue in the 1st are mystical.

    August 9, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    • Thank you Dave, very much.

      August 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm

  6. That first photo really grabbed my attention on my reader. The other photos are also superb, but that first one takes the biscuit. The ethereal quality of the sea and the colours are just sublime. Beautiful.

    August 9, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    • Thanks very much David.

      August 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm

  7. Aaaaaaaaaah so beautiful!

    August 9, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    • Thank you Dina. :-)

      August 9, 2013 at 7:14 pm

  8. Fabulous images Adrian. I particularly like the first one, its cool colours are very calming. That coupled with the blurred long-exposure movement creates a beautifully serene landscape shot.

    August 9, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    • Thank you very much Mark, very much appreciated.

      August 9, 2013 at 7:14 pm

  9. Amazing colours.

    August 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    • Thanks Lynne, it was an amazing morning. :-)

      August 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm

  10. Liana

    OMG: I wanna be you when I grow up and become a real photographer!!!!

    August 9, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    • I think that’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me. Thank you so much Liana. :-)

      August 10, 2013 at 6:52 am

  11. Oh, how the landscape transforms so beautifully under your careful watchful eye. These are stunning!
    I like how the foreground comes a little closer and foremost as the series progresses. As though the day is becoming more realized and intimate.
    Beautiful work, Adrian. And the colours and mood of that first one are pure bliss.

    August 9, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    • Thank you Karen. I love your description, the day becoming more realised and intimate as the series progresses.
      There’s no substitute for being out there enjoying the dawn but I was so pleased when I loaded the pictures to my iPad in the car, I shoot RAW on a compact flash card and jpeg on an SD for in the field viewing, and thought, yes, I think I have something here. That’s always the icing on the cake. ;-)

      August 10, 2013 at 7:02 am

  12. Fantastic shots, the Golden and Blue Hours of photography are untouchable…even without a camera in hand, there is something about those times in the day that puts the creative mind in overdrive. Mornings are special, as I like the cooler light… Very well done!

    August 9, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    • Thank you very much. I too much prefer the dawn. Something fresh and new about it all and I’m very much a morning person, by sunset, in the summer at least, I’m flagging and thinking about sleep, not being creative. ;-)

      August 10, 2013 at 7:05 am

      • After a recent blue-hour shoot, I had to come back to take a look at that first photo again…it is quite mesmerizing. Perhaps the best blue-hour photo I’ve seen as the ND filters create almost a surreal/3D effect, along with the polarizer. Beautiful and unique, a very special shot.

        September 21, 2013 at 7:54 am

      • Thanks Randall, I really appreciate that. It’s a very beautiful and unique time of the day.

        September 21, 2013 at 10:20 am

  13. That first one goes into a realm of abstract painting. Very cool and atmospheric. But then all the shots are marvelous in their own way. Nice that someone can manage to rise before the sun does! ;)

    August 9, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    • Nothing like it Gunta, fresh from a few hours sleep the dawn is a very special time but I know night people would say the same about sunset when they are just emerging creatively, figuratively and literally, I guess, in some cases. But for me it’s always the dawn. :-)

      August 10, 2013 at 7:09 am

  14. One and three for me . . . very nice.

    August 9, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    • Thank you Emilio.

      August 10, 2013 at 7:10 am

  15. I think number 3 is my favourite. Amazing as always Adrian. Thank you :)

    August 9, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    • Thank you Angi. Much appreciated. :-)

      August 10, 2013 at 7:10 am

  16. poppytump

    Sometimes ChillB as they say you just have to be there at that very moment to appreciate the wonderful light . Dawn Sunrise in Cornwall does seem very special .
    Love the milky blue haze with an air of expectancy in your first shot … really really lovely .

    August 9, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    • Thank you Poppy. I very nearly didn’t make it for the first shot but a bit of night before planning meant despite getting up a little late, I did just make it to Pentire Head in time to catch the cool blue of the pre dawn light. I took a couple of long exposures, went back to my bag and turned round and there was the sun, took me a bit by suprise though obviously I was expecting it at some point :-D I then had a bit of a panic to start taking pictures with the right filter and focal length as the sun emerged from behind the landscape.
      Always shocks me how little time you have in reality as the light starts to change at such an alarming rate. I just kept shooting. It’s quite important to pick your spot and your composition and stick with it. Start moving around thinking it might be better from just over there or there, and you’ve lost it. Taken me about 18 months to figure that one out. D’oh! ;-)

      August 10, 2013 at 7:21 am

      • poppytump

        Lol .. I’ve got a way to go here then ;-)
        Actually strangely enough I was out the same morning and I think I have the exact sized tiny sliver of sun …. coming up over the Severn Plain and – yes – take your eyes off the horizon for a moment and then look again and it’s like .. hello .. did you think I wasn’t going to be here today ;-)
        Note to self .. I must get me a filter ….

        August 10, 2013 at 11:27 am

      • Long distance photographic synchronicity or something ;-)

        August 10, 2013 at 4:16 pm

  17. Amazing captures!

    August 9, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    • Thank you!

      August 10, 2013 at 7:22 am

  18. A beautiful photographic series.

    August 10, 2013 at 12:16 am

    • Thank you very much indeed! :-)

      August 10, 2013 at 7:22 am

  19. Fantastic!

    August 10, 2013 at 2:44 am

    • Thank you elena! :-)

      August 10, 2013 at 7:22 am

  20. Breathtaking! I’m just swooning here!

    August 10, 2013 at 5:05 am

    • Thank you so much. So glad you enjoyed these. :-)

      August 10, 2013 at 7:23 am

  21. Great series of a pure landscape in morning haze. The first one – waiting – and the last but one when the green/yellow/red colours come through and brings a new light – those two I love most. But letting them through on my screen brings a looong aaaaaaahhhhhh and me sinking daown in my chair with a lingering smile…

    August 10, 2013 at 9:13 am

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed these pictures Annchristine. It’s so lovely to hear a reaction like yours. Thank you for your comment. :-)

      August 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm

  22. great photos. wow.

    August 10, 2013 at 9:18 am

    • Thank you very much Marissa! :-)

      August 10, 2013 at 4:16 pm

  23. Amazing!

    August 10, 2013 at 11:55 am

    • Thank you Mehmudah! I hope all is well with you. :-)

      August 10, 2013 at 4:15 pm

  24. Hi Adrian, beautiful series! My favorite will be the first, the blues are outstanding. Greetings, Ron.

    August 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    • Hi Ron, Thanks very much. Appreciate that very much!

      August 10, 2013 at 4:15 pm

  25. Along with most others who have commented, the first image is my favourite – beautiful. I too love the pre dawn/dawn light but it always seems to happen far too early in summer :D
    As a general observation: I prefer this font as it’s much easier to read …

    August 10, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    • Hi Noeline, Thank you for that. One of my biggest disappointments with WordPress is the limitation on fonts. Even when you buy the pro package as I have done, the number of fonts that you can choose is so limited. I know this script can be a bit troublesome to read at times but I really don’t like any of the other fonts on offer.. I will look further into though as I take your point. :-)

      August 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm

  26. They are all just divine. The first one especially!

    August 11, 2013 at 4:37 am

    • Thank you Marina. :-)

      August 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm

  27. You have a lovely series there Adrian. Where did you got to take them?

    Thanks for the technical advice too.

    August 11, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    • Hi Finn, Thank you. There’s a little national trust car park at Pentireglaze a very short walk from the cliff. Looking east obviously the white house on the cliff is at Port Quinn. The peaks you can see in the far distance to the right are Brown Willy and Rough Tor.

      August 11, 2013 at 8:28 pm

  28. Oh wow stunning as usual.. love the colours you get!!

    August 11, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    • Thank you very much Lisa. Always pleases me when my camera manages to capture those wonderful colours. No processing enhancements necessary. :-)

      August 11, 2013 at 8:42 pm

  29. This is a really magnificent series, Adrian. You are such an expert at these sunrise pics. Amazing shots! :)

    August 12, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    • Thank you so much Sylvia! :-)

      August 12, 2013 at 6:59 pm

  30. What a beautiful series, Adrian. And what a treat to sit there and just watch this evolve before your eyes. Every images has the capacity to stand on its own. The first shot has some wonderfully atmospheric colours.

    August 12, 2013 at 8:56 pm

  31. Amazing photos!

    August 13, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    • Thank you. Glad you liked them.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm

  32. utterly breathtaking

    August 14, 2013 at 11:01 am

    • Thank you so much. Glad your enjoyed the pictures.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm

  33. You’re “playing” your ND filters like a musical instrument. Nice work Adrian. Hard to pick a favorite.

    September 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    • Thank you John. I meant to say, great to see you back from your ‘sabbatical’! :-)

      September 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm

  34. Wow! What a stunning series. I especially like the top one… the colors are amazing!

    September 1, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    • Thank you Anita :-)

      September 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm

  35. An excellent study, Adrian. It’s always fun to see how the landscape changes over time. My favourite picture is the first one, it’s so different with a mystic touch and a glooming atmosphere. Incredible colours.

    September 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    • Thank you Otto. I really like that time of day when the light is still over at the blue end of the spectrum. It makes for some interesting landscape shots I’m finding.

      September 3, 2013 at 9:16 am

  36. i find the first image really exciting, for the way it blends a traditional seascape with an abstraction. The clouds in motion could almost be reflections of windows. It has a calm feeling overall but really keeps my interest with that unexpected sky!

    September 3, 2013 at 1:32 am

    • Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed the picture. There’s nothing a photographer likes to hear more than ‘really keeps my interest’. :-)

      September 3, 2013 at 9:14 am

  37. Nice!!

    September 15, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    • Thank you :-)

      September 16, 2013 at 9:55 am

  38. Oh my ….

    September 22, 2013 at 3:11 pm

  39. I love these wonderful pictures of nature.

    January 14, 2014 at 9:44 am

    • Thank you so much!

      January 15, 2014 at 8:32 am