Preparing for Sunrise photography

As the old saying goes “you got to be in it to win it” definitely applies to sunrise photography. It can go your way or sometimes, more frequently (it feels), does not.

I apologise in advance if I’m teaching you to suck eggs. This is just my take on what is important to remember.

The only way to capture those great sunrises is to firstly have the motivation to get up at stupid o’clock. The time all depends on what season of the year and how far you have to travel to get to your destination. It helps to go out with others and take inspiration from those who are acclimatized to early starts and good sunrise locations combined with the necessity for a good alarm (or two) to make sure you don’t sleep in!!

Early morning at Three Cliffs Bay


Secondly, packing appropriately is a must. Camera gear (duh) including appropriate lenses and extras such as batteries, cards and your tripod is a must and doesn’t need any less emphasis. Taking extras is a must if you are moving on to other places after sunrise as the tendency is to move on to another location such as an Urbex explore, a good walk through a landscape or even some macro work.

Also important is good protection for your camera. I use an all in one waterproof coat with arms to use the various dials and a clear see through back so you can see what you are doing that are available to purchase for around £12.99 ($20) on eBay and provides protection and peace of mind. I have personally damaged a 5D Mark 2 and destroyed a battery grip due to saltwater damage from a rogue wave.

Craegennan Lakes Early Start

Third, appropriate clothing. Depending on your location for sunrise, you may need good wellington boots if you are going anywhere muddy or to the beach, good walking boots if you are climbing a mountain and need sturdy footwear. Remembering to bring toilet roll, handwipes and antiseptic lotion is also useful not to mention adequate thermal clothing or multiple layers of clothes or waterproofs.

Last, food and drink. Making sure you have food and adequate refreshment. Photography is not always fun on an empty stomach!

Where I live in Wales, we are spoilt for choice on locations. Favourites include the Brecon Beacons and the Welsh Heritage Coastline. A hard location for sunrise is the climb to the top of Pen-y-Fan (2970 metres) which is the highest peak in South Wales and not that easy at stupid o’clock when there is no light and a steep, uneven incline to walk. We have our favourites and also our wishlists, sometimes the weather and conditions are with us and sometimes they are not.

First shot out of the camera


Those early mornings are hard on times but when you get a good sunrise, it makes it all the worthwhile. When you are sat back in the car reviewing the back of your camera and get excited by the results at the pre-processing stage, then it makes up for that early fuddled stumble from bed and the injection of caffeine to assist you to put one foot in front of the other.

An early start usually means an early finish. The majority of times we are out of the house so early that we can be home by midday having spent 10 hours out exploring.

 Failed sunrise


I have been photographing for many years. My passions are urban exploration, travel and landscape photography. I particularly like using High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, with the majority of my work being captured in this way.

I am a fan of capturing more than the camera can capture in one exposure. The science behind revealing as much as the scene as possible by capturing as much in 3, 5 or 7 brackets appeals to me greatly.

I am a regular on the photography exhibition circuits and am accredited under several photographic bodies including the Royal Photographic Society, Welsh Photographic Federation and Federation Internationale de I’art photographique (FIAP).

Lives: South Wales, United Kingdom

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