This makes two magnificent dawns in the first week of January, alone. In years past, we came to expect these celestial extravaganzas in December. Perhaps this past December was not cold enough.

When I first spotted this great blaze through the window, I thought surely there must be a roaring wildfire off to the east. Of course, I was mistaken.

For those who may be interested, there’s a technical issue that I’d like to discuss: The “blaze” was too bright for the camera to capture on its default settings. The highlights “blew out;” that is, the bright areas lost detail. So, I overrode the camera’s light meter and reduced the light entering the camera. By so doing, I was able to preserve detail in the blaze, but only by sacrificing detail in the foreground, which went dark. In fact, I sacrificed so much in the foreground, that there was a net loss of detail, overall. That net loss represented a compression of the brightness (or “tonal”) range of the scene.

Once I saw the image in my computer, I realized that I had tamed the brightness too much, so I reversed the process a bit in my image editor. It took some trial and error to get it right, but now I think it conveys the impression of brightness, while preserving detail — although it does not, cannot, match the real scene in absolute terms.

No camera — film or digital — can capture the full brightness range of nature, nor can a photo print or computer screen duplicate it, so artful compression is almost always required.

The photo was taken on January 3, 2013 at 7:17 am. Astronomical sunrise occurred at 7:14 am.

View in dim light: To appreciate the real-life brilliance of the “blaze,” view the photo in dim light. For even greater impact, expand the image to full screen, as instructed below.

Click the image to view it full screen, and click the back arrow to return. Cursor over for its description.
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Related: Fiery June Dawn*, Auspicious Dawn 2013*.

 

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