What’s worth to get up 5AM in the morning?

Mid-March, annual cherry blossom season had arrived.  It’s not a surprise that Seattle’s hippest spot for it is right in the University of Washington.  It will involve with hours of traffic, finding the impossible “parking spot”, and you will guaranteed bump into at least one person you know in your life that will be there.  That! Is the annual thing to do for seattleite.

I got an invited on Friday night, been told that bunch of people are going to the University of Washington around 5AM to avoid the traffic, the people, crazy kids and dogs, parking issues, and you can photograph low-light!  Obviously, this isn’t the first time I’ve ever done low-light photography, but since I advanced to Sony A7, I was afraid that I just don’t have a proper wide angle lens to do such task.  End result, I had to use an APS-C lens (Pentax DA 21mm Limited) to do the job.  Images were cropped nearly about 1/3 off from original image and they were still suffering from the corner smearing.  Sadly, I wish I have had a better setup.

Obviously, I am not really an early riser.  I dragged on my sleepy head with a zombie body to the scene before I knew who is there, my friend Andrew shouted out my name.  That’s what 5AM would do to you! Funny enough! I arrived late, so technically it was around 6AM.  These dedicated photographers were already here since 5AM.

Before entering the open field, I should at least test out how wide my APS-C wide angle lens can do.  An indication of how much I should crop off.
Before entering the open field, I should at least test out how wide my APS-C wide angle lens can do. An indication of how much I should crop off.

I wish this wide angle wasn't an APS-C.. look how corner smeared and there were some sort of pink color feels like light leak. :(
I wish this wide angle wasn’t an APS-C.. look how corner smeared and there were some sort of pink color feels like light leak. 😦
The moonlight backdrop.
The moonlight backdrop.
WOW! Sharp!! Now I am awake.
WOW! Sharp!! Now I am awake.

Though I have a tripod, and normally I would set my camera on the tripod do a long time exposure for low-light. However, this time I got lazy to use a timer in the dark.  I simply meter at widest aperture then step down whenever the shutter flashes 30″ (meaning lowest shutter without switching to manual mode).  That’s how lazy I was this morning…

I guess I tried to avoid to always use smaller aperture like F8~F11 at same time.  First time trying out to use something between F2.8~F4 to create a set of images that has much more 3D feeling to the scene because of blurry background.  I do like a scene everything is sharp so you can peek through an image into 100% pixel by pixel.  However, I like to create these images to have some sort of foreground and background separation.  That’s why due to the Aperture Priority metering was already about 15″ ~ 20″ from widest aperture, I just let my camera do the magic.  Step down till 30″ is probably the laziest way of taking photo.  But who am I kidding? Because by 6:30AM I am fully awake, I was running around chatting to people, sipping my coffee and doing everything else but watching my camera.

This shot aperture goes to F8. I want at least one
This shot aperture goes to F8. I want at least one “super sharp” image.
The lonely chair
The lonely chair

I actually enjoy low-light photography much more than under the sunlight.  Hey! Now! Play nice! I am not a vampire! All I am saying is that under the moonlight, it often adds a lot of mystic feeling to the image. You can potentially blown over the highlights, but it’s going to be harder to do it compare to the direct sunlight.  Not only the moonlight painted a pink color over these white cherry blossom trees, the warm street lamps also paints them into different colors. It’s just a joy to look at how many colors you can paint on them. It’s like painting over a canvas!

Tree branches
Tree branches
As the sky gets brighter, there are more colors has been introduced to the scene.
As the sky gets brighter, there are more colors has been introduced to the scene.

One thing about low-light photography is the amazing colors. No matter it’s the GOLDEN hours at sunset or BLUE hours at sunrise, color changes by second. If you are using a camera to take very fast shots, every single shot will give you different color rendering. It’s just amazing to get an identical shot! Of course, if you are talking about photographing in completely dark after the sun has been seted, then you are probably getting much more consistent colors.

Moon is still up there, but the sun is coming up too!
Moon is still up there, but the sun is coming up too!

While sun is coming up from the East, I tilted my camera straight right into the sky. Pink color is where the sun is coming from, blue color cast caused by the moonlight and blue sky.

Pink and blue!!
Pink and blue!!

As this moment, a friend of mine was so late! He didn’t even have a tripod.  So I gave up my tripod and crank up my AutoISO on the camera, I started to film things I can handheld.

The crazy photographer who got here since 5AM.
The crazy photographer who got here since 5AM.
Not so lonely chairs.
Not so lonely chairs.
So many 5AM creeps here.. :D
So many 5AM creeps here.. 😀
The sun is painting everything PINK!
The sun is painting everything PINK!
For a moment. I totally forgot they are white cherry blossom.
For a moment. I totally forgot they are white cherry blossom.
Buildings with cherry blossom trees.
Buildings with cherry blossom trees.
Buildings with cherry blossom trees.
Buildings with cherry blossom trees.

This time is nearly 7.  As for today, March 22, 2014, the sunrise time is 7:01AM (according to iphone weather).

The sun has raised. Now I can see blue sky and white clouds.
The sun has raised. Now I can see blue sky and white clouds.
A shot to the courtyard before I leave. :D good morning America!
A shot to the courtyard before I leave. 😀 good morning America!
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What’s worth to get up 5AM in the morning?

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