One of my most popular photographs is “Mirror Lake Sunrise” that I made on a Fall morning in Lake Placid. Following is the brief story behind its creation.
I spent the night at the Golden Arrow with the plan to catch a nice sunrise over Mirror Lake. When the alarm started buzzing at 5:00AM, I was thinking to myself, “I hope I get the good clouds!” Ever the optimist, I got up, grabbed my gear, and headed out.
I wanted to get to the shoreline early so I could have plenty of time to prepare. I also wanted to have some time to take in the surroundings which did not disappoint . The cold, dark blue night sky gradually lightened as the sound of loons calling in the distance echoed across the lake. It felt as though I was mile into the wilderness.
As the sunlight began to overtake the sky and illuminate the the heavy, low clouds, I could tell there would be no fireworks as far as the bright oranges and magentas that make for those classic sunrise photographs. I remained steadfast as I did not stand out in the 20-degree air for almost two hours to leave empty-handed. I would have to adapt.
I could tell where the sun would make its appearance over the horizon and decided to capture it there just as it peeked over the mountains. I set my aperture to a very small opening to create the starburst effect on the sun to give it rays. I used a shutter speed that would allow for a decent exposure that I could still work with in post-processing to bring colors and details out of the shadows. Since I was essentially exposing for the bright sun, I knew I would have to make a few different exposures to work with. (It’s much easier to pull details from darker areas than brighter, overexposed areas.) Furthermore, I wanted to keep any ripples that may appear in the water defined in order to have texture. Had I used a slow shutter speed, the ripples would have disappeared into a smooth surface on the water. I set my camera to bracket three images; one with my initial settings, one at one stop over and one at one stop under.
As the scene came together, I began clicking the shutter with my wired remote. I captured the scene directly in front of me as well as a panoramic that included a swimming dock and buoys. The mist on the water created an ethereal feel as it became immersed in the orange sunlight that gleamed across the lake. I placed the sun to the left side of the image in a prominent, yet not over-powering position that would allow viewers to see the mountains and colors on the trees. I also lined up the sky with the reflections on the water for balance. I got a few clicks in the tin and just like that, it was over.
While the initial version did not have a defined subject, the star of the panorama is the dock. This created balance with the sun.
There you have it; A little planning, a little luck, and a little photography skill come together to make this photograph. – John Haywood
Camera – Nikon D7000
ISO – 100
Aperture – 1/27
Shutter Speed – 1/45 sec
Exposure Bias – +1
Focal Length – 28mm
Other – Tripod, wired shutter release
I processed the images using Lightroom 4 where I lightened the shadows and brought out the colors that were present at the time. I also did some manual exposure adjustments using the adjustments brush function. Old darkroom habits die hard.
The final image –