Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Dawn Raid

In my last post I talked about how I got up at ridiculous o' clock in the morning to take pictures in UL for the photography competition, and how I was pretty disappointed at the results. I was expecting some kind of magic light that instantly produced classic photographs, just by the virtue of me being there. Well it didn't quite work out like that, although I did take a few that I was reasonably happy with.

Last Sunday, I made a second attempt. Not out in the University, but rather in Galway. The plan was to get up at about 4.00am, drive to the Burren, and take photos there at dawn and watch the sunrise. An ambitious plan, to say the least. Well, to put it this way, getting me and my better half up at that time of the morning was the equivalent of placing a bet on a drunk elephant to walk across a tightrope while singing the Mongolian national anthem... We didn't do too bad, however. We managed to struggle out of bed and leave Galway city at about 5.30. An achievement in itself.

However, it was looking increasingly unlikely, as we sped down the road, that we would make it to the Burren before the sun began to come up. The best light is supposedly just before sunrise, and the absolute worst case scenario was sitting in the car watching what was looking like an amazing sunrise. The sky was completely clear, just what we were looking for. We quickly made an improvised plan: we decided to basically turn west, and headed for the nearest bit of coast we could find. After some initial worry, we at last got to a dirty, muddy patch of the coast that didn't look in the least bit conducive to taking beautiful photos. I was secretly pretty disappointed at this stage - I felt like the early morning effort we had gone to my have been in vain. I was to be sorely mistaken, however.

Although the landscape didn't look awe-inspiring, it didn't turn out to matter at all, because the light was a wonder all to itself. I've never seen hues like that before, and looking back on my photos they have a slightly false look about them. The light took on a presence of its own, bathing the bare scene in just about every colour imaginable - with perfect tones; nothing was over exposed or too dark.

The other incredible (and difficult) thing about the early pre-dawn light is its dynamism; it changes virtually from second to second, and literally from minute to minute. Without moving the camera I was getting pictures that looked completely different as the time went by. It's exhilerating; it's hard to describe. You have such a short time to take photos, and the light changes so often I found my adrenaline pumping within minutes of setting up the tripod and camera - despite the early morning grogginess. The fear of ruining what is probably a once-or-twice a year opportunity is pretty immense. Anyway, here are the results: These are by far my best single crop of photos from such a short time.

Smooth Water

Beach at Sunrise

Hello sun!

If you ever drag me out here at 5.30 in the morning again...

And that was that. All the grumpy bleary-eyed early morning mood, the panic, the fear, and the exhilaration, culminating in these four, and maybe another two or three shots that I am happy with.

"A bit... pointless", some might say.

I say there's not much in the world I'd rather do.

As a side-note; we spent the rest of the day at our intended destination; the Burren. I was happy enough to largely forget about taking photos - I couldn't ask for much more that the morning, and besides, one gigabyte memory card will only hold so many pictures! I did get one I was pretty happy with, however. The photography gods must have been smiling on me that day.

Burren in Black & White