I was up at 4:15am on my second day at Shenandoah National Park. I checked the weather and sure enough there was a rain shower heading toward the park right at sunrise.
Tunnel Parking Overlook at Sunrise
I delayed my trip to the park hoping that the sun would break through after the shower passed. My luck held out. By the time I reached the Thornton Gap Entrance, the sky was mostly cloudy with a thin band of the reflected sunrise between the clouds and the mountain tops.
This not only provided interesting sunrise compositions but the sunrise colors seemed to last a very long time due to the reflection from the clouds. I photographed the sunrise at 3 different east facing overlooks: Tunnel Parking Overlook, Buck Hollow Overlook, and Hazel Mountain Overlook.
Sunrise from Hazel Mountain Overlook
Make sure to bring along a longer focal length telephoto lens. I used both the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens and the Olympus 40-150mm F4.0-5.6 Lens for my micro four thirds system for tighter compositions of the mountains and sunrise.
I used exposure bracketing at -2, 0, 2 so I could merge the images into an HDR. The HDR improves the dynamic range of the image so you can see details of the dark mountains in the foreground while not blowing out the highlights in the sunrise.
Buck Hollow Overlook Sunrise
The bracketing exposures were processed in to an HDR using HDR Efex Pro 2 from Google. I also used the Topaz Clarity plugin which is now located in Topaz Studio 2 to add saturation and contrast to the images.
Even if the skies are mostly cloudy, it may be worth heading out and checking the sunrise. Mostly cloudy skies can mean a longer sunrise and lead to beautiful photos.
Written by Martin Belan