I don’t do a sunrise photo shoot very often. But when I do, I always make sure I have a pretty girl to stand in front of the sunrise. This pretty girl is named Randall, and she’s the best model I know for a couple reasons. One, she met me at the beach at 5:45am even though she lives 45 minutes away. Two, she got chest-deep in Lake Ontario for me even though it was freezing. The air temperature was 12°C that morning when we started shooting!
This shot above was snapped at 6:19am, well before we got in the water, and just slightly before the sun started peeking over the horizon. I’ve never seen anyone so chipper at 6am as Randall was. She was bouncing around, jumping up and down — frolicking, if you will. She was so excited and so cute doing it! My trusty Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8 lens (VIEW ON AMAZON) was the glass that captured this, while the Alien Bees 1600 monolight (with standard reflector) illuminated Randall so she popped out against the sunrise.
While Randall made a quick change into a purple H&M one-piece swimsuit, I changed up my lens to the Nikon 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 (VIEW ON AMAZON) for this next photo. The sun had emerged from the horizon, giving off some powerful flare. It’s always tricky at sunrise or sunset when trying to capture the sun in the frame with the subject. If I had leaned a little more to the left, Randall’s torso would have obscured the sun completely. If I had leaned a little to the right, the sun would have been shining directly into the lens even more and completely washed out Randall. There’s a happy medium, which is having the subject just partially obscure the sun. Sometimes a couple inches makes all the difference.
Since the sun had risen above the horizon, it was time to use the light from it as much as possible. Randall and I swapped spots on the beach so that she was facing the sun and it would evenly illuminate her. Because the sun was still so low on the horizon, it was quite warm and quite soft, especially with a little bit of cloud to diffuse it.
Finally, Randall eyed these bikini bottoms from Wicked Temptations pretty sceptically (they’re super tiny, after all), but still put them on and rocked them for a few great photos. In case you can’t tell, she was absolutely freezing here, which is why it’s always best to save any water shots until the very end. It’s only fair that we both got wet, so I was right in the middle of the lake too while shooting. And yes, the pink sweater that Randall wore is actual cashmere (from H&M). It didn’t absorb water quite the way I thought it would, but hey, cashmere at the beach is okay, right?
Shop for the gear I used on this sunrise photo shoot
- Nikon 85mm FX ƒ/1.8G AF-S Lens
- Nikon 70-200mm FX ƒ/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Zoom Lens
- Paul C. Buff Alien Bees B1600 Monolight
- Manfrotto 1004BAC Light Stand
- Learn more about the gear I use
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