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Why I Woke Up at 4:30am on Vacation to Shoot these 6 Sunrise Timelapses

If you’re on vacation and happen to have a front-row seat to the sunrise, you might want to consider working that into your schedule. Here are the results of my creative effort.

I’ve just returned from a restorative family vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine. We stayed at a magical house on the water with two other families. The house is in Cape Porpoise right on an ocean inlet that transforms into an otherworldly span of mudflats at low tide.

The birds woke me up on our first morning at 4:45am. I peered out our bedroom window onto the flats and took in a pre-sunrise sky ablaze in purple and pink-colored clouds. I saw one of the other dads already out there with camera in hand. There was no need for words. I gestured that I would join his sunrise photo shoot.

Half asleep, I grabbed my tripod and DJI Osmo Pocket camera to record a timelapse of the sunrise over the mudflats. I stumbled down the stairs and onto the edge of the flats to join my friend.

Sunday Cape Porpoise Sunrise Timelapse

Sunday sunrise timelapse

The Set Up
The sun was due in 10 minutes, and I was running out of time. I hurriedly set up my timelapse to run for 20 minutes, snapping a frame at 2-second increments. This gimbal also let me add a little motion in the shot, which is really nice. And then I let nature take over. I watched the sunrise and simultaneously created this 20-second sunrise timelapse video.

The result wasn’t terrible, but the length felt short to me. And there weren’t many clouds in my shot. Plus, my settings didn’t allow enough time for the clouds to really move through my frame. (Clearly, it’s all about the clouds.)

Monday Cape Porpoise, Maine Sunrise Timelapse

Monday sunrise timelapse

I immediately wanted to try again. So the next morning, I did exactly that. I adjusted the timelapse settings to record for an hour at 3-second frame increments. That would capture more of the sunrise and also help the clouds to move faster. Here’s the 40-second result.

The scattered cloud cover instantly made this sunrise more interesting, and the longer timelapse felt like the perfect length.

In Search of More
I sat down on the lawn with my coffee and felt both relaxed and incredibly satisfied. I had fed my creative self, and it wasn’t even 6am yet.

So I decided to repeat the exercise for the rest of the week. 4:30am… every morning.

Waking up earlier that I normally do ran completely counter to my vacation goals of sleeping in. But I adjusted with adding afternoon vacation naps to my schedule.

All sunrises are unique. Even though the sun is a constant, the different cloud formations create limitless timelapse opportunities.

That said, I think some of my videos were more interesting than others based on cloud position and movement. But that’s just one opinion. Here are the rest of my vacation timelapses. (I’ve sped up these Gifs a bit to capture the full 40-seconds of each video.)

Tuesday Cape Porpoise Maine Sunrise Timelapse

Tuesday sunrise timelapse

Wednesday Cape Porpoise Sunrise Timelapse

Wednesday sunrise timelapse

Thursday Cape Porpoise Timelapse

Thursday sunrise timelapse

Friday Cape Porpoise Sunrise Timelapse

Friday sunrise timelapse

Not to play favorites (every sunrise is perfect), but I think Wednesday was the winner.
(Any other thoughts?)

The Value of Greeting the Day
On the last morning of our vacation, a storm was predicted, but I woke up early anyway and walked outside to greet the day and feel the breezes. Yes, it started to rain, but it was light.

There was no sunrise. But of course the dawn did arrive. I sat down on an Adirondack chair with my cup of joe to just… be.

I took in the dark clouds overhead. I didn’t have a camera in my hand, but I still relished in the conclusion of my week-long morning exercise.

And then I understood that it’s not always about being able to capture a sunrise. Sometimes, just being there is more than enough.

My vacation was complete.

How your Timelapse Videos will Reveal a Different Reality

Shooting timelapse videos will remind you about the very nature of existence. Here are a few of the ways they can expand your perspective.

Capturing that perfect moment with your camera can be a life-long ambition. Along your photographic journey, you might want to also consider the opposite exercise. Explore the opportunity to scoop up the ever-changing landscape in front of you… across time.

Use Your Camera as a Time Machine
Many cameras and smartphones today can act as a time machine and perform the trick of timelapse video capture. You’ve just got to give some thought to which environments you’d like to explore and how they might look when you squeeze twenty minutes down to twenty seconds.

Shooting timelapse videos is easy to do. You’ve simply got to keep your camera steady and allow it to slowly snap a frame of video every two or three seconds. Along the way, it stitches the frames together to generate a scene that moves at lighting speed when you play it back.

Beyond the exploration of timelapse video as an art form, this technology is also exciting, because it bottles up time and then reveals your world in ways you’ve never experienced before. It’s a whole new way to experience reality.

Here’s what I’ve learned from these timelapse videos I’ve recently shot.

So Many Rushing Clouds
I’m always impressed by the hidden intensity of ‘normal’ weather conditions in timelapse mode.
Clouds Timelapse at Calf Pasture Beach
Clouds do not lumber along. Here on a beach, I see that they are clearly on a mission to quickly reach some important destination.

Our Fleeting Existence
When you speed up time, people become momentary blips. While this video’s final form creates a dance of frenetic fun in a snow storm, it’s also a sobering reminder of our own brief presence in space and time.
Snowy Day Timelapse at Cranbury Park
So, always remember to enjoy the dance.

Your Own Sunrise
Capturing a quickly-moving sun at dawn is hardly an original concept. It’s a scene we’ve all be exposed to countless times on TV and at the movies. Still, there’s always a way to make a sunrise your own.
Sunrise Timelapse by Saugatuck River and Route 95
Where you choose to experience your sunrise is always the unique factor.

Adding Motion
You may have noticed the panning movement in my time-lapse video examples. This trick is courtesy of the ‘motionlapse’ mode in my DJI Osmo Pocket Gimbal camera. After every snapped frame, the gimbal auto-pans a wee bit as part of a preprogrammed move. And that creates the effect of a smooth pan across the shot.

Timelapse videos are fun to do and usually generate amazing results. Just don’t forget one important variable. These videos will take a while to shoot. So plan ahead.

Capturing time takes time.

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