I had a whole week off for Labor Day. Surely, I thought, I’d have plenty of time for birding. But, as so often happens, Mother Nature had other plans. It rained. And rained. And rained. And rained some more! We need the rain, and the sod that I just put out is definitely appreciating the daily shower. But it makes sunrise photography difficult when the sun can’t be seen behind the clouds! Thankfully, there was one day with only 40% cloudcover projected for the early morning. So I headed to Orlando Wetlands Park and begged Mother Nature to give me just one great shot. She gave me several. :)
As I left my house and got on the highway that morning, it was pitch black. The sky began to lighten as I approached the park, and I tried to gauge the cloud cover. Initially it seemed quite heavy, and I was disappointed. Then as the sky lightened more, I saw that there was some potential for a good sunrise shot. Gaps in the clouds can make for very dramatic lighting. When I got to the park and headed out to the trail, I saw the bright colors on the horizon and broke into a run to get to my desired location. :)
Look at the sun’s rays shine pink and yellow on the landscape! The trees in the foreground at Orlando Wetlands always make for fun sunrise photography.
I walked quickly up and down the trail, trying to align the trees with the rays to frame my images. The waters of the lake glowed with the same colors of the sky. It was so pretty. I set up the camera to take bracketed exposures at +/- 1EV, which I later combined using Photomatix Pro. Using HDR really makes the images “pop.”
When you are at the park, the trees in the distance seem very prominent and striking. But when you look at the images, those trees tend to get lost on the horizon. So I continued to search for trees in the foreground. Sunrise photography is a race against time – the light changes so fast!
When I found this composition, I thought it was awesome and I stayed here for a while. The colors on the horizon glowed as the sun rose, but the great orb itself stayed hidden behind a cloud. Flock after flock of birds took off from their nightly roosting locations in the marsh and headed out for the day. After some minutes of waiting for “the” still photograph, I realized that the iPhone in my hand would give me a great video of the sounds of the morning…
After a while, I backtracked a bit and photographed the glow of the sun, still hidden behind the clouds, as it peeked through the trees.
You can see how quickly the light changes as soon as the sun pops up over the horizon. All the pretty pinks are gone. Then the clouds settled in. For the rest of the morning, the sky looked pretty much like this:
But it’s always fun to chase a sunrise – you never know what you’ll end up seeing! :)
Want to learn more about nature photography at Orlando Wetlands?
Check out my Orlando Wetlands page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!