A picture paints a thousand words
So heres a thousand words about the dawn in the Amazon.
This image was made around 5 minutes before dawn on my first morning in the Amazon.
It had rained heavily during the night, but when I awoke just as the sky was beginning to get light, you could already feel the heat. Its around 3º south of the equator, and the temperature never really went below the high 20s ºc
I found waking up so early much easier there, as we only had electricity in the lodge between sunset at 6pm and 10pm at night (it was a tiny wooden place on an island among the tributaries of the Amazon), and so we slept with the cycles of the light. Wed be asleep by 9pm, and then wake up at 5 for the dawn.
The heavy rain had made the wooden walkways slippy as I made my way across the island to the landing pier. The walkways are all on stilts around 6 meters above the island, and they swayed quite a lot as I walked, which coupled with the dark, the wet wood and the huge noise of the jungle around me (it was my first night, so everything felt new) was quite unnerving.
I arrived at the edge of the island, going down the steps to the floating pier, where I set up my tripod. The nights rain was already evaporating in the heat, creating a mist which partially hid the far bank, and there was a stillness in the air which made such a peaceful atmosphere.
I spent around 45 minutes there shooting the mist, the river and the sunrise. The sun rises incredibly quickly at this latitude, and just 15 minutes after the sun first cleared the horizon, it was already high in the sky and too strong for photography.
To be honest, I took so many photos on so many different dawns that its hard to remember exact details.
For many of these shots I was limited in terms of composition as there was no real foreground to shoot. I used the pier in quite a few shots as a foreground, but I felt that with the reflections, the images worked better if there was nothing to distract from the sky and its reflection in the water, so I often just placed the horizon across the middle and composed that way.
In terms of exposure, the pier I was standing on was actually floating and longer exposures tended to result in the far bank being blurred due to the bobbing of the pier. I tried to move as little as possible in order to keep the pier as still as possible, and also to keep try to stop the pier from making ripples, but this was pretty difficult.
The best solution was to get exposures as fast as possible, so I opened up the aperture a little to give me a faster shutter speed. I wasnt too worried about depth of field as the focal length was pretty wide and there was no foreground to keep sharp in focus.
I took a meter reading from the water, and then checked the sky, which was two stops brighter, so I used a 2 stop neutral density filter with a soft graduation along the trees to balance them both together.
At f6.7, I could get a shutter speed of 1/45, which is plenty fast enough to avoid any blur from the pier moving.
Very little has been done to the image in post. The original shot is landscape format, but to the right of the image its a little darker and I thought it was distracting, so I cropped it into a square.
Other than that, I tweaked contrast a tiny bit in levels, converted to JPEG, resized it to 900pixels across and then sharpened the image.
Finally I added a frame and the title.
Taken on Rio Juma, The Amazon, Brazil
Nikon D80 | Nikkor 18-200mm VR | Nikon Cable release
Manfrotto 190XProB w/ 322RC2 ballhead
Lee 0.6 (2 stop) soft GND
1/45 | f6.7 | 18mm
Workflow in Apple Aperture. Frame and title in PS