Despite the fog, the first light showed promise. There was a warm glow rising from the far side of the lake. It filtered through the mist and cast soft reflections of the trees in the water. As the sun rose higher it cast its own muted, but still luminous, reflection. A great blue heron, silhouetted by the light, stood poised in the water. I moved quickly, but quietly, to photograph the changing light as the beauty of the morning unfolded. My mind clearly focused as I set exposures and composed each frame. I felt fortunate to have witnessed, much less photographed, this dawning of a new day.
In nature photography the cliché “The Early Bird Catches the Worm” still holds true. I am a born morning person. I often wake a few hours before the sunrise without the aid of an alarm. I have, on more than one occasion, dragged my family out of bed at 4 am in the morning to arrive at a photographic location before sunrise. Sometimes I use bribes: Mention the word “fishing” to my not-so-early riser husband and he’s up before the crack of dawn. My teenage sons will usually get out of bed if I suggest “ fast food” for breakfast. But, a more convenient and reliable way to be where I want to be when the sun comes up is to take the whole family camping.
Camping at Oscar Scherer State Park allowed me to be in the right place at the right time to photograph this beautiful sunrise. Since most Florida State Parks, wildlife refuges and sanctuaries open at 8 a.m. (at least an hour after daybreak) and close at dusk, many good opportunities to photograph and observe wildlife are lost to the day visitor. Wildlife, including birds, are most active in the early mornings and evenings. Camping, if permitted, will allow you to get the best photos.
For not-so-early risers, there is no rule against taking a travel alarm camping. Set it to allow yourself sufficient time to get to where you want to be at the time that you want to be there. Save time by going to bed with your clothes on, so all you have to do is put on your shoes in the morning. Also, have your camera gear organized and ready to go. If you need a cup of coffee before you set out, allow extra time to brew it. If I’m lucky, I can usually go out for a few hours of photography in the morning and return to the campsite to the smell of coffee, bacon and eggs. That works for me!