This was the third spectacular dawn in just the first week of the new year — making up, no doubt, for a lackluster December, the traditional month for celestial fire (see the links below).

I raised the shade at 7:00 am. The sky was clear except for a few dark clouds directly overhead. They were blowing easterly on a divine wind, seemingly predestined to meet the sun as it rose.

For those technically inclined, there’s an issue here that I’ve touched on before: The brightness range of the scene exceeded the camera’s ability to capture it. As I often do in such cases, I metered on the brightest element, the fiery sun, letting the darkest element, the shoreline, go nearly black. This strategy also dimmed the clouds and sky, making their gold and pewter more intense, adding drama and interest to a scene that otherwise would have been bland, as below.

Put another way, I preserved detail in the brighter, more interesting parts of the scene, by sacrificing detail in the darker, less interesting portions. The net effect was positive. If I had taken a normal, average meter reading, the camera would have clipped detail at both ends of the brightness range for the lackluster result in the photo at right, taken ten seconds later.

When compressing the brightness range (technically, the “tonal” range) of the real world for display on a computer screen or a paper print, some detail must be sacrificed. The question is how to distribute what remains; the answer is one of artistic interpretation. I first gained an insight into this by reading the works of Ansel Adams, the great master and teacher on the subject.

By adopting such a stratagem, you may ask, have I misrepresented reality? Ah, that’s another question, entirely. If you’d like my thoughts on it, I invite you to read my post, Photography as Art*.

Both photos were taken at 7:30 am on January 7, 2013. Astronomical dawn occurred at 7:14 am, the same exact time – unusually – as it did every day the previous week.

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: Auspicious Dawn*, Wildfire Dawn*.

 

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