Working a scene

Sometimes when I’m out photographing at dawn, I’ll see someone stop, hop out of their car, make a single photo, then get back in and leave. Will they get a good image? Maybe. But they’d have a better chance if they could invest some time trying different compositions and settings to see what works best.

Brewing storm Brewing Storm: 6:24 am, 20 mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, Blended exposures (2.5 and 0.8s)

On a recent morning at dawn, I photographed a photogenic thunderstorm from the St. Johns River boat ramp on SR 50 for about an hour. As the light changed, I tried different lenses and techniques and I’m pretty happy with the images I came home with.

Sunrise through a thunderhead Sunrise through a thunderhead: 6:52 am, 39 mm, ISO 100, f/11, Blended exposures (1/125 – 1/30s)

I thought you’d like to see these examples from that morning. In each caption, I’ve listed the time I made the photo and the settings I used. Maybe you can take away some ideas for your next dawn photo excursion. If you have any questions or want more details about what I did, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer.

A storm across the river A storm across the river: 7:24 am, 160mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/320s exposure, 5 frame panorama

Header image: Thunderhead and mist over the marsh: 6:39 am, 105 mm, ISO 100, f/8, Blended exposures (1/4 – 1/60s). Full image at

The light and colors varied tremendously while I was there. I enjoyed watching them evolve and using different settings / focal lengths to capture the changes and include or isolate parts of the scene.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Be careful out there and please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, work a scene!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

8 thoughts on “Working a scene

  1. Ed, I’m living in Connecticut now but I always enjoy receiving your emails along with your expertise. Thanks for sharing your terrific photography.

    1. Hi Gilbert,

      I’m glad you enjoy them. Connecticut is a beautiful place – we haven’t been there in many years. Maybe we can see it again some day.


  2. Superb photographs, Ed!

    Very sound advice on slowing down, observing what’s happening around you and testing different compositions at different times.

    I was offered an additional tip which I try hard to follow, especially at dawn and dusk. As you’re framing that gorgeous horizon that’s all “lit up” – turn around. Often the rising or setting sun is creating something beautiful behind your back!

    Thank you, Ed, for continuing to share your techniques and simply beautiful results.

    1. That’s a great tip Wally – thanks for including it in your comment. I wish I’d thought to put it in my post!

      I enjoy writing the blog and I’m grateful that folks like you stop by to read it.

      Thanks again,

  3. Ed, I have been receiving your emails for quite some time and always enjoy them but have never commented. I merely “play” with my camera and have nowhere near the equipment or skill that you do but you are definitely inspiring! Thank you for sharing. I agree with Wally and with the fact that people often leave after they have taken their “sunset” picture. I find myself standing on a pacific beach with a sky that is on fire and no one around me.

    Here is one small question. What does “blended” mean. I understand it is the combination of two photos taken at two different shutter speeds but is this done in the camera or on the computer? Photoshop? Thanks again for your blog and for answering amateur questions.

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      I’m really glad you took the time to comment and I’m glad you enjoy the blog!

      And thanks for your question – it’s a good one. I hesitate sometimes with putting too much detail in a post. I worry that many folks won’t be interested in all the gory details. I was using “blended” as a generic term for combining multiple photos.

      In the “Brewing Storm” image, I made two frames: one exposed and focused for the sky and a second one exposed and focused for the grass in the foreground. Then I blended them manually in Photoshop. You can read about my approach in this post from way back in 2011:

      The “Sunrise through a thunderhead” image is from a bracketed sequence of four frames. I set up my camera to make the frames at four different exposures and then used the “Photo Merge to HDR” function in Lightroom to blend the frames. I’ve found that it works pretty well.

      There are other “blending” techniques (e.g. luminance masking) but I use the two above most often.

      Thanks again for reading the blog and for your comment and question. Let me know if I can help further.


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