I was just thinking about a week ago how I have no photographs of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, one of the top landmarks in the entire Tampa Bay area. With New Year's Day 2012 approaching it seemed then a great chance to continue a Japanese custom, watching the first sunrise of the year, while finally photographing the bridge. I learned from a photographer in Japan that the best morning light is actually way before the actual sunrise. The above image was taken approximately 49 minutes before sunrise.
Dawn photography is similarly easy to night photography. If you have a stable tripod and a cable release, then it is basically just a matter of choosing the best shutter speed to produce the most vivid color and also of course composing the shot in an interesting way. With my Nikon D300 mounted on my Induro CT214 carbon fiber tripod, making these shots was no mess, no fuss. By that I mean the tripod takes away the physicality of holding the DSLR and heavy lens, correcting a shot just means turning one dial for shutter speed, and the act of making the shot itself is just holding the button on the light cable release. Painless!
In the fifteen or so minutes before the actual sunrise the light is already poor, especially compared to the light fifty minutes earlier. So in that time I did not even bother making any photos. Thus, it is important to know the exact minute of the sunrise so you can keep an eye on the time because once the good dawn light is gone, all that remains is to photograph the sun itself rising above the horizon. Once it is above, that is the end of the excitement.
Since the sunrise is well in the distance along the horizon, using a longer lens with a focal length of 200mm is very handy for being able to fill the frame. The above shot was taken at 200mm (300mm effective focal length).
Please put links to your New Year's sunrise photographs in the comments below!