Sunrise at Otter Cliffs

I told a bit of the story in my last post about arriving at this beach early only to find it already crowded with photographers. Now, I don’t mind standing cheek to jowl with other photographers. I’ve generally found photographers to be kind, generous, friendly, and willing to share lots of useful information. After all, if you are going to stand next to someone for sometimes hours on end, you might as well have a good time with them.

Now, what I can’t abide is the rogue photographer who just won’t play by the rules. For example, a couple of years back I was at Mesa Arch to shoot the sunrise. I was the second person there and moved into a position that was good for me, but didn’t interrupt the other guy who got there first. As we waited more and more people arrived and began to set up. That was no problem. It was a big problem when one guy decided that his ideal location was virtually on top of Mesa Arch and in all of our shots. Fortunately, he quickly moved back to another position.

On this cold, windy morning more and more photographers arrived after the first batch of us were set up. I think there were two different photography tour groups along with many other independent shooters. Other than a few people almost taking a tumble on the damp, round rocks almost everyone played well with others. Unfortunately, not everyone could abide by the unspoken but inviable rule that you never ever set up your tripod in another photographers shot. One guy decided to set up 100 feet in front of the entire group so he could have the shot that he had envisioned. And, to make matters worse, he did so just as the sky was brightening and the sun was about to rise!

Now, remember what I said about photographers being the friendly, genial types? Well, that only applies if everyone is abiding by the rules. Once this guy set up in a spot that would ruin all of our shots, things became less than friendly. There were some isolated calls to him to move – just in case he couldn’t see fifty other people behind him. When he didn’t respond to those, the isolated calls became a chorus of boos and catcalls letting him know who had arrived first. There were even a few who let him know that the escalation would be to begin throwing a few well-placed rocks in his direction if he didn’t decide to move. Finally, after some gesturing and retorts, he got the point and moved back in place and out of our shots. Photographer harmony was restored and we could get down to business.

You can see the layer of clouds that is hovering just above the horizon. The sun rose in that space and warmed the underside of the cloud layer, the surface of the water, the cliffs, and even the smooth rocks on the beach in front of us. I took frame after frame of the scene trying to capture the beauty of the moment. It was apparent that the glow would last only as long as it took the sun to rise from the horizon and until it passed behind the cloud layer. As it turned out, that window was about fifteen minutes.

This image was made early in that window. It is a composite of five different images shot at one top apart and blended with Photomatix Pro’s Exposure Blending tool. By gaining the extra four stops of light I was able to hold the shadow detail in the rocks and trees while not overexposing the warmly lit cliffs. I really love how the entire series of images came out. This one is my favorite from that memorable morning.

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