george bruce wilson standing above yosemite valley with the mountain smith tour FX
Wilson capturing Yosemite Valley with Tour FX lumbar pack.

What is the hardest thing for you to do on a typical day? For me, getting up early is easily at the top of that list, especially since becoming a parent. I need all the sleep I can get. Getting up early in the morning is probably one of the hardest things to do for many people. It’s rare to have a good enough reason to do so. Usually we have work, school or have kids to get up for school, but other than that, think, when was the last time you actually got up and saw a sunrise? In the photography world, ‘The Golden Hour(s)” is typically the prime time to shoot which is the first hour of light and the last hour of light for each day. I call them, “The Golden Minutes” because usually the best light only lasts for 15 minutes inside that hour and that’s all we get for magical lighting.  It’s a time where as photographer/film-makers we go crazy and try to get all we can in those few moments and the majority of us, my self included, only shoot sunset.

George Bruce Wilson looking over Yosemite ValleyI’m lazy. Not all the time, but I like getting up with a slow morning start and working during the evening. It’s just easier to plan on shooting for sunset, it’s warmer and it’s familiar. Recently work has brought me to some amazing places and has forced me to get up much earlier than normal and my psych has totally changed. Mornings are amazing! Why haven’t I gotten up early before? It’s a completely different world in the morning! There are so many different perspectives than what I’m typically used to in the morning. So I’ve compiled a small list of why we should all make it a priority to get up before the sun rises.

  1. THE SILENCE – One of the first things I’ve noticed is that everything seems to be much quieter in the early morning. There aren’t really any cars, or traffic.  Everything is just waking up and you can hear it. It’s very peaceful. You can soak in your surroundings. The only other people that I’ve run into before sunrise are other photographers and there aren’t many.
  1. PHOTOGRAPHY – In most scenic areas there is a sweet spot or a popular spot where ever one wants to get that classic shot. You know what I’m talking about. You show up and there are 30 other photographers there and you’re all in the same spot fighting for the same shot. It’s kind of ridiculous.  Remember its better to be different than to try to be better. Go to the same spot in the morning, before sunrise. You’ll have a completely different perspective than all those photographers have in the evening and you won’t be fighting any crowds. You’ll be able to move around the area and discover a new look. hald-dome-portrait
  1. IT’S HEALTHY – Or so they say.  By “they” I have no idea who they are, but for me it seems like for the rest of the day I’m way more productive! I come back to camp or home from shooting sunrise and I’m alert. By 10 a.m., I usually have more stuff done than on a normal day.  I’ve found that I sleep better too by getting up earlier which is great… unless I’m shooting the Milky Way.
  1. CREATIVITY – We all fall into creative ruts. It’s apart of being a creative or working in a creative position. You can’t always be in your flow stage it’s just impossible. Getting up early is like when you clear all your media cache files on your computer and your computer starts working more efficiently again. I don’t know if everyone can relate to that metaphor. If you can’t imagine your brain being well rested and being able to think clearly again, this is a perfect time to explore new ideas and get the create juices flowing.
  1. WILD LIFE – While all the humans are asleep it seems to be the perfect time for the animals to do their thing.  From hunting to grazing, animals seem to love moving around in the morning twilight. I’ve come across all kinds of animals in the morning. One time I came upon a mountain lion, which was amazing, but I surprised him and he took off. Usually I’ll see elk or deer and depending where you are, you’ll come across a number of other animals.   deer at yosemite valley

I still love my slow mornings, but if I’m out shooting, I pretty much will always try to shoot something at sunrise. Get out and try it, you wont regret it. Getting up to shoot sunrise doesn’t mean you have to be a morning person, but it might just change you into one


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half dome sunrise

Half dome at sunrise

sunrise at yosemite valley

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