A fine, smoky mist filled the air. Like a painter’s brush, it had smeared the sun and daubed the sky.

Astonishingly, this was the fourth dazzling dawn in just nine days since the year began (see the links, below). In years past, I would have felt lucky to witness one such in January.

The photo was taken on January 9, 2013, at 7:32 am. Astronomical sunrise took place at 7:13 am.

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*, Spare Dawn.

 

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*.

 

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*.

 

Auspicious Dawn | New Year's Day 2013, 7:32 am

Wishing Readers Every Success and Happiness in the New Year.

The photo was taken at 7:32 am on January 1, 2013. One minute later, the sun broke cleanly above the trees, the colors faded and the effect was gone. Astronomical sunrise took place at 7:20 am.

Click the image to view it full screen, and click the back arrow to return. Cursor over the image to see its description. Enjoy!
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Related:Winter Solstice 2012. Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close.

 

⬆︎ Slide Show: Click any image to open slide show. Click on the “X” at the top left, or hit the “ESC” key to return.
Use the keyboard arrows to navigate. Click on the link below the lower right corner of an image to view it full screen.

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The Winter Solstice is an instant in time, marking the shortest day and longest night of the year. It is the day, also, when the noontime sun is at its lowest. The juncture of these two astronomical events is due to the axial tilt of the earth as it moves around the sun.

In the United States, and in some other parts of the northern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice marks the first day of winter. However, the official date for the first day of winter varies from country to country, and will depend on a country’s climate.

In northern cultures, the Winter Solstice has long been celebrated as a day of birth or rebirth, a reversal of the sun’s waning presence in the sky. This year, it occurred on December 21, 2012.

In the northern hemisphere, the day also marks the southernmost rise of the sun. Due to a wobble in the earth’s axis as it moves around the sun, the sunrise will now reverse direction and move progressively from the southeast to the northeast, until it reverses direction once more on the day of the Summer Solstice, due to occur on June 21, 2013.

Winter Solstice, December 22, 2007____________________________________________________

At Right: The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere over Asia. The sun is at its lowest point in the southern sky. The northern polar regions remain dark, while the southern regions bathe in twenty-four hours of sunshine on December 22, 2007.
Source: Wikipedia.

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Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, I was unable to take photos on the day of the solstice, itself. The photos, above, I took a week later, on December 28, the first day following the solstice that dawned clear and cloudless. The first frame merely records the predawn, a time of quiet, expectant beauty. The second frame illustrates the sun rising in the southeast. The times are noted below each photo in the slide show. On that day, astronomical sunrise occurred at 7:13 am.
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Related: December Dawn*, Fiery June Dawn*.

 

⬆︎ Slide Show: Click any image to open slide show. Click on the “X” at the top left, or hit the “ESC” key to return.
Use the keyboard arrows to navigate. Click on the link below the lower right corner of an image to view it full screen.

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I may catch a fleeting glance of a coot sweeping by our shore once in a winter. Here was one frolicking with Mallards and Hooded Mergansers – all drawn excitedly to the shallows, no doubt, by the odd chance of a quick meal.

American Coots are duck-like in appearance and habits, but fall into the order, Gruiformes, in company with cranes, rails and others. It sports black plumage and a conical white bill, and dives primarily for aquatic plants. Normally gregarious, it is often seen on water or land in large, tight flocks, known as “covers” or “rafts.”

The light on the subject was poor, and it’s hard to make out details in the photos, but the prominent red shield between the eyes appears to be missing, suggesting this is a first-year bird. I couldn’t tell if was a male or female because they’re similar in appearance (although the males are larger).

I took this series while photographing Common Mergansers, and didn’t realize until later that I had caught a coot as well. The photos were taken in the early morning of December 24, 2012. The time and description is noted under each.
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Related: Common Mergansers*, Mergs Near Shore.