4.00am Saturday morning - Shaun Mills

Alarm set for 4.00am on a Saturday morning - Am I mad I hear you ask?

Well, clearly the answer is yes given the fact that I'm an Amateur Photographer or 'Tog' & my main interest being Land & Seascape photography, usually involving some form of sunrise or sunset.

Now given the fact that the sun rises earlier & earlier the nearer we get to the equinox & also sets later & later it is a regrettable fact that someone like me rarely gets any sleep during this time.

However, this is all part of the gamble, checking the weather forecast, making sure the sun is where is supposed to be (thanks to The Photographers Ephemeris for this) & most importantly setting the alarm. It's the 'thrill of the chase' !

Anyway, on this chosen day, Saturday 14th May I'd decided to set the alarm for 4.00am, as sunrise was scheduled for 5.04am.  I'd already planed my route & knew what I had in mind to shoot, know where the sun would rise.  

At 4.00am it is still dark, so little did I know that there was heavy cloud hanging around & not much wind to shift it along at any pace - at least it was dry & warm!  So I quickly got ready & then hopped in my car as I'd planned this shoot off the Island where I live & therefore had to journey to the mainland (well the coastal saltmarsh the on the other side of Pyfleet Channel - the body of water that separates Mersea Island from the rest of the United Kingdom).   I arrived at location around 4.20am & then proceeded to walk (still in the dark) along the sea wall hoping to avoid any little presents that the foxes may have left me on the path.  My luck was in, I managed to trudge all the way around the sea wall without managing to stand in anything overly smelly reaching my chosen position around 4.30am.  At this stage I'm thinking to myself, it shouldn't really be this dark still, where the **** is the sun?  

I managed to take a couple of test shots & had to use my little LED torch to a) see & B) focus & these still came out so dark even a 30 second exposure (without the need for the ND10 fllter).  At this stage I tweeted a photo of the set up & my phone beeped almost immediately, now usually when your phone goes at 5.30am it will either the unfortunate news that someone has passed away or more likely I'm not the only mad person up at this ungodly hour. Once again, luck was on my side & no-one had passed away(!) it was another Tog who had seen my tweet & responded that the light was fantastic where he was.  For the sake of this blog I shall call him 'Steve', but if you would like his side of the story maybe you should follow @SillyPigsPlay on Twitter. 

Now that tweet could have triggered 2 responses (given my light was non existent & his was superb, he also posted a photo), however, I clung to the fact that I was not the only mad individual that had left their warm comfortable bed at ridiculous o'clock chasing a non-existent sunrise.

We spent the next few minutes responding to each other tweets & then I tweeted the immortal line, I've had enough I'm going back to bed!  At this point, I put my rucksack on, picked up camera & tripod and started the long, lonely walk back towards the car, feeling quite disconsolate and very, very tired.

Now Lady Luck features several times during this blog & once again she shined on me as at this exact moment a gap in the clouds appeared (like a scene from an old biblical film) & from nowhere this amazing sunrise started to shine through.  Quick as a flash I rushed back down to my position, re-set up & fired.  Bang, straight in with a beauty, re-positioned & took another shot with a slightly different composition.  

At that moment, the early start, frustrations and tiredness vanished in an instant.  This is what being a Tog is all about, capturing that exact moment that no-one else had seen (at least from that vantage point) and producing a final image so others could get some pleasure from your perseverance.

The image you can see is the 2nd one taken , with the sunrise reflecting off the perfectly still water & the rickety wooden bridge providing some nice foreground interest.


Would I do it again, hell yes !!! 






The Bridge