About Thomas Fitzgerald

Thomas is a professional fine art photographer and writer specialising in photography related instructional books as well as travel writing and street photography. 

Photographing The First Dawn Of A New Year, 2017

Photographing The First Dawn Of A New Year, 2017

One of my photographic new year's resolutions is to take a more project-based approach to my photography this year, rather than the somewhat haphazard approach I took in 2016. With that in mind, the first idea that I came up with was to shoot the first sunrise of the new year.

My wife and I headed out to the beach at Sandymount in Dublin. This is a famous beach here in Dublin as the low tide reveals a long sand flat leading out into the bay, and in the background is the equally famous old power station with its iconic chimneys. We got up at 6.30, and it was still pitch black, and bloody cold. When we arrived at the Strand, there were the beginnings of the first rays of the new years sunshine, but unfortunately, the clouds were beginning to thicken. Even so, as the sun inched ever closer to our side of the world, the light got more and more spectacular.

The towers of the power station always provide a dramatic backdrop for any picture, and so it was fitting to capture them as my first shots of 2017. The beach itself is a great subject too, as the dawn light creates silvery reflections on the sand and the pools of water on the beach. In the distance, there were still some ships moored out to sea, and their lights shone over the water on the horizon. As the sun came up behind the thickening cloud cover, a ferry headed out to sea in the distance, and after that another one.

Photographing The First Dawn Of A New Year, 2017

I took three cameras and three tripods with me, but I only ended up using two. I set up my Fuji X-Pro 2 as the “A” camera. It was equipped with the 18-55mm lens, and I used this for most of the shots. The second “B” camera was my D700, fitted with a 24-120 f/4 lens. I used this for zooming in to capture closer images. For both, I used aperture priority and set the aperture at f/8. I was shooting long exposures on both, and so I used the self-timer function on each camera to minimise any possibility of camera shake.

I did discover a little bug with the X-Pro 2 when doing this. When you set the self-timer using the quick menu, if the camera goes asleep it cancels the self-timer function. I’m not sure if there’s a way around this, or if you set it from the menu or elsewhere it doesn’t cancel out, but this got old fast. We set up about an hour before sunrise, and so was taking shots intermittently for the duration. Because of this, I would let the camera go asleep or turn it off between shots, and each time I would have to turn back on the self-timer. On the D700 the self-timer is a physical switch, so it’s not a problem. Anyway, it’s not a huge deal, and I guess this is a bug rather than intentional, but if anyone knows a way around this, please let me know.

One of the great things about using the X-Pro 2 was the built in wifi. I was able to get the shots on my phone while I was waiting between taking photos. This meant that I was able to post my new year’s dawn photos to Instagram, while it was still dawn! I know lots of cameras have wifi now and this isn’t anything new at this point, but I still appreciate the novelty of it.

We shot for about two hours and then we headed home after the sun came up (albeit behind the clouds). Processing the images afterwards, it was interesting how well the X-Pro2 and the D700 “cut” together. I have used shots from both cameras in the sequence below, and there isn't a significant difference between them in terms of tonality. On the Fuji, I was using “Provia” as the colour profile, and on the Nikon, I am using “Standard”. Admittedly I do use a slightly tweaked profile on the Nikon as my default setup (which I’ve always applied in Lightroom), but there aren’t significant changes to it. Either way, the images work well together for a consistent sequence. I thought that I might have to do a considerable amount of editing, but the edits that I’ve done in Lightroom on these are pretty light.

Despite the clouds and the cold, it was still a great morning, and I’m glad that we got up to see it. I hope everyone has a happy new year and a great 2017. Here are some of the photos I took this morning. Enjoy.


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