Pre-Dawn Sky Check

I could see stars when I walked out onto the patio this morning for my daily pre-dawn sky check. It was a good sign. There would be no marine layer blanketing the sky when the first sunlight skimmed the mountain ridges.

The marine layer burns off by midday and keeps the daily temperature peak down, but does little to light the landscape at sunrise. Before the cloud burns off it creates a nice “softbox” effect, lighting foilage and insects, so it is good for macro photography, but I get bored with that after too many overcast days.

The pinholes in the navy blue dome told me that there wouldn’t be any dramatic cloud cover, but there was a good chance of catching some color as the rising light split along the ridgetops in the east.

I didn’t have time to go too far before the best part of the rising, so I rode to nearby Anza Narrows Park. Hidden Valley Wildlife Preserve would have been my first choice of location, but it is a few miles away, and I didn’t think I had time to get there.

To pop up the dim light in the foregrounds, I used a graduated neutral density filter on the upper half of the frame. The “grad” slows down the light in half of the frame, which allows a bit more light to expose the other half, so it gets a little more highlight detail. It can also be thought of as effectively compensating the clear half of the frame to the plus side, like adding (+) a stop or two of exposure compensation.

These frames were converted from the RAW files. I’m beginning to wonder why I need the camera-generated JPEGs.