Greig Houghton Photography
Landscape, Street and Travel Photography


Irish Landscape and Travel Photography Blog

Sunrise over Bray, Co Wicklow

Having returned on Saturday evening from my trip to Lough Tay, I started to question whether I should get up for my planned sunrise shoot at the brach in Bray. The weather was ok, but there was more cloud in the sky that I had hoped for.  The required 5am rise was definitely the main reason for my change in attitude.

I somehow managed to convince myself to set my alarm before hitting the sack and thus with bleary eyes the next morning I set off in the car for the beach.  I arrived in good time and had a short wait at my destination before leaving the car.  As seems to be the norm with my shoots at the moment, I had a clearish sky above me, but a really thick low band of cloud on the horizon.

I had scoped out two possible adjacent locations from google maps and quickly decided on the best spot.  A small cove with a rocky beach and nice lines of rock leading out into the bay.  The day started to get brighter and brighter, but I was starting to get demotivated by the lack of colour of sky, the thick band of cloud on the horizon and an annoying ship out in the bay who's job seemed to be sail back and forth across my frame.

Thinking the shoot was a bust, I started to experiment with a few shutter speeds and filters to see if I could salvage anything from the morning.  Then from nowhere my dawn finally arrived with the sun starting to creep above the false horizon created by the low band of cloud.

It all fell into place, as the annoying shipped parked itself in just the right spot on the horizon, some cloud had moved in from the south to reflect the rays of the sun and the stun started to halo above the cloud but not yet visible.

Using my 10-stop B+W ND filter I exposed for one minute to achieve the silkiness in the sea.  The increase in light from the sun was giving quite a large dynamic range and I had trouble prevent clipping in the highlights while retaining shadow detail in the rocks in the foreground.  Another situation I could have used a ND grad filter!  In the end, I felt the horizon was the key tone in the image and compromised on loosing some shadow detail for keeping the subtleness of colour on the horizon and sky above.  Was keeping my fingers crossed I could pull some of the shadow out in Lightroom without attracting too much noise. The result of this was the lead image in the post.

A few minutes later the colour was gone as the sun exploded above the horizon.  As I ended up shooting directly into the sun, I knew I had to switch to exposure bracketing and HDR the life out of it while hoping not to attract some bad lens flare.  I stepped down my aperture to f/22 to create a sunburst effect.

I eventually tried to recompose the shot by hiding the sun behind the line of rocks while catching the glow of the sun on the east facing rocks, but the composition was quite flat with no leading lines into the shot.  Time to go home.

The long exposure image required only some minor work to correct the white balance from the colour cast from the filter. I pulled as much shadow as I could from the rocks using fill light without generating excess noise. They are still quite dark, but I don't feel it detracts too much from the image. A bump of clarity, sharpening , noise reduction and an ever so slight vignette and I was happy with the image.

The HDR image require more work.  A straight forward tone mapping in photomatix, but had to jump into Elements to fix some faults.  First, a little bit of flare to be cloned out followed by the removal of a halo around the high contrast area at the rocks and sky.  Finally, there seemed to be a slight reddish/ magenta colour cast on the outer rocks which I had to locally correct.  The finishing touches were completed in Lightroom.