Capturing a sunrise could be challenging, but it is all about preparation and self motivation. This is how I do it:
Step 1: Scout or Pick your location
Decide where do you want to go, this will allow you to determine later what kind of photographic gear you need to bring, the clothing you will require and support equipment you would need. The location is also key to plan for the trip, how many hours will it take from your location and how you will get there.
Step 2: Plan your shoot
What are you expecting or want to shoot, this will also help deciding later what gear to bring.
Step 3: Setup a date
When and with whom you want to go, give some time to coordinate all the event and also clean and pack your gear.
Step 4: Check the weather forecast
Check it a few days earlier and then the night before, for me this is the go/no-go moment of the trip and I decide depending on the forecast. There might be locations that you won’t be able to access or shoots you might not be able to take. Example if you want to capture stars before the sunrise and it is going to be cloudy you might want to cancel or delay it, same if it’s raining and you want to take sunny photos.
Step 5: Create a list of photography equipment
Create a list of gear based on the variables collected before (location, weather, subject). I suggest to make 3 major groups:
Step 6: Create a list of non-photography equipment
This important and some people forget to pack other items that you need to bring with you like water, trekking poles, snacks, flashlight, duct tape, rain cover, umbrella – think about where you are going and what you will need.
Step 7: Charge Batteries
I check and charge all batteries, it sounds silly but it could spoil the trip. I learned it the hard way, I check my camera battery was at 40% and I was counting on my spare one – only to find later it was depleted. That day one of my friends saved me as our cameras used the same battery model but still that was a rookie and silly mistake that could be avoided by just checking the batteries.
Step 8: Clean your equipment selected and memory cards
Clean lenses, filters, memory cards, tripods, bags… bottom line: bring your equipment ready to shoot.
Step 9: Pack your gear according to the lists, check for batteries and memory card again.
Did I mention to check batteries and cards? 🙂
I place all all my gear on a table and go through the list, I take a photo with my mobile phone before putting it inside my bag. The photo is in case I want to see if I forgot something, I don’t like to unpack and pack again, during that process I might leave something important out. Also it helps to remember what gear you took to the trip, believe me you can learn a lot from that information later.
Step 11: Prepare your outfit the night before
Another rookie mistake that could be avoided, remember that you will get up in the middle of the night and you might be sleepy and forget important items like a scarf or extra shirt… even picked the wrong kind of footwear. I try not to think and just execute so I leave everything I will wear stack up on the bathroom, also think about your family and avoid waking up everybody on your house.
Step 12: Pack a snack & Plan your breakfast
Food is important, unless you already planned to have breakfast on your way. I try to leave some things prepared the night before like sandwich or power bar that I can grab and eat right way. I remember a trip a forgot to eat and then find myself in the middle a great spot really hungry so I rush the trip to find something to eat. Now I try to pack something extra in case I get hungry during a trip. I also pack water.
Step 13: Leave all equipment packed by the exit door
For me this is key, I always do it the same way. I don’t go on my car every time, sometimes somebody pick me up – so I come up with the system to always do it the same way disregarding the transportation. The idea is to do the less thinking while I’m sleepy.
Step 14: Check the sunrise time, plan to get at least 1.5 hour in advance.
I double check the sunrise, I would hate to come too early or too late. I also check the temperature in case I need to bring extra clothing.
Step 15: Set up the alarm, set up a secondary alarm.
I setup 2 alarms, I don’t rely on snooze button. I remember one time I stopped the alarm and fall asleep again… since then I setup 2 alarms with 15m difference.
Step 16: Get some sleep.
Sleep!! I tried once to stay up until the trip but then I was cranky and everything was bothering me, I rushed so many shoots and I didn’t enjoyed the moment, so I decided to avoid staying up and I prefer to rest at least a couple of hours to have full energy when I wake up.
Step 17: Wake up, and enjoy!
Enough said, go out and have a great day.
I always love to see the sun come up, I never get tired of it and it is a magnificent experience to feel the warm sunlight.