It was dawn on our third day in the Amazon. I'd been up at 5am on the previous 2 days to photograph early morning mist on the river and the sunrise, but on this day our guide had offered to take us out in a canoe to see the sunrise across one the the lakes that forms in the various tributaries of the Amazon.
As soon as we got to the wooden pier I could see that there was going to be no mist today, but already the sky was turning a very deep pink, and inside of me bells started to ring that it might be a very special sunrise.
There were 6 of us in the boat, and 2 guides who paddled the canoe across the lake almost without a ripple. It's funny because the noise of the jungle at sunrise and sunset is truly incredible. There's the constant buzz of the cicadas, punctuated by the deep calls of the frogs. Above that you've got the deep roar of the howling monkeys, the calls of all the different birds and the occasional splash as an alligator slithers into the water from the bank, or a dolphin breaks the surface to breathe.
All this noise is at such an incredibly loud volume and all around you, yet at the same time it actually makes you feel peaceful.
Perhaps that's why each one of us in the boat was whispering...
After I took this shot I put my camera down because I knew that it quite simply was not going to get any better, and I wanted to share the moment with my wife.
For a couple of minutes, no one in the boat uttered a single word..we just looked and thought our different thoughts.
In my life, it's perhaps the most overwhelmed I've ever been by nature and her incredible beauty.
Usually with my photographs I have a very slow, very methodical process using my tripod and careful metering of the scene.
Often in the Amazon that wasn't possible because I did so much shooting from a tiny boat, so I was hand holding the camera most of the time.
Because of the low light levels, I pushed the camera's ISO 2/3s of a stop to ISO160 and opened the aperture up to f4 so I could get a relatively quick shutter speed that wouldn't blur the far bank.
It was even more important on this shot as we were actually moving (although very very slowly) and I didn't want the branches to have any blur.
So often during this holiday I didn't have time to measure exposure variations in the sky to choose filters, and often just guessed and relied on experience. Reflections of the sky are generally 2 stops darker than the actual sky itself and I didn't want to over-filter the sky so it was darker than the reflection, so I generally just used a 2 stop filter with the graduation line placed along the horizon and snapped away.
In terms of composition, with reflections I put the horizon right across the middle to try to make a symmetrical image.
I was sitting on the bottom of the boat leaning across the side with my camera as close to the water as I could get it, and just when I was thinking that the image just needed something else in the foreground to finish it off, we drifted past these submerged trees (the water levels of the Amazon fluctuate 10 meters between seasons, so we were drifting across a forest that in 8 months will be uncovered by the water. The foreground branches are actually the very tops of submerged trees).
Taken on Rio Juma, the Amazon, Brazil
Nikon D80 | Sigma 10-20mm
Lee 0.6 (2 stop) hard GND
1/60 | f4 | ISO 160 | 10mm
Workflow in Apple Aperture (sharpening and contrast). Frame and title in PS