Early morning trip results in beautiful Atchafalaya Basin sunrise photograph
I recently set the alarm clock at 3:45 a.m. so I could be set up to capture a gorgeous Atchafalaya Basin sunrise. I was pulling away from the boat launch as sunlight was just trickling over the horizon, and was in place just off on a beautiful cypress and lily pad festooned flat near Duck Lake when the day’s sunrise began throwing light over the scene.
The result was this amazing Atchafalaya Basin sunrise photography, one of the most-beautiful images I’ve captured to date.
The biggest problem I had was that the water was a little too deep and the bottom way too soft for me to hop out and set up a tripod. So I had to hand-hold the camera, taking three- to five-shot series of photos that could be used in creating an HDR image.
Normally, these images are created with my Nikon D810 set at the lowest ISO and using long exposures, but the conditions forced me to get out of that comfort zone. So I upped the ISO and cranked up the shutter speeds to ensure any camera shake didn’t create soft images.
Compositionally, I wanted to really show off the beauty of the Atchafalaya Basin’s swamps. Obviously, that meant including the ubiquitous cypress trees draped with Spanish moss. So I used the line of trees on the left of the image to help frame the photograph, and the line also leads the viewer’s eyes into the frame and toward the two trees on the right side of the image.
The lily pads and water hyacinths in the foreground add really beautiful detail.
But it’s sun that really makes this photo special. I knew before I arrived that I wanted to create a starburst, which is accomplished using a small aperture and underexposing a couple of frames (to ensure the sun didn’t blow out and turn white). The key was having the sun positioned between those cypress tree when it topped the horizon.
I used a great app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris to pinpoint where the sun would appear, and as soon as it began pushing over the horizon I began taking photos.
The result of the few minutes of shooting is an amazing photo showing the iconic beauty of a Atchafalaya Basin sunrise. I used Lightroom and Photoshop to process the image.
Prints of this image are available below, with prices beginning at just $142.99.