The Edge of Light

We photographers like to work early and late in the day.  For many people, getting up early – really early – is difficult (to say the least!).  Luckily, I’m pretty much a morning type person.  As far as I’m concerned, 9:00 PM is almost the middle of the night.

Here are three frames, taken a week ago, at about 5:00 AM.  These are from a small lake I’ve been working.  All three frames were shot from the same location, with my Nikon D4 handheld at ISO 1600, and the new Nikon 80-400mm lens.  Just in passing, I’m very impressed with this lens, to the point that I’m thinking about selling my Nikon 200-400mm f/4 if anyone’s interested.






  1. John T. June 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Love these images, they’re very calming to look at.

  2. Dennis Kowalewski June 27, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    John, Couldn’t agree with you more on catching the morning light. Last week, I was up at 0230 to get out on top of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Sperryville entrance, to capture morning valley sunrise at 0500. Had about 3 hours of good shooting. After that, it was time to head home and process the photos.

  3. Henkjan Kievit June 28, 2013 at 3:49 am #

    Completely agree with the fact that these are the best moments of the day. But I’m very happy that we also have the evening option… I’m not a morning guy like you…

    Althoug on assignements to cover a whole area for example I do use both morning and evening. Short nights then..

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos, John!

  4. Dave Spindle June 28, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    Beautiful photos. I love the way you handled the lighting on each one.
    I’m intrigued by your comment “…a small lake I’ve been working”. I’d love to hear more on how you “work” a location.
    Thanks for sharing these, John.

  5. Wayne Nelson July 7, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Beautiful and sensitive photos John. I have to say there have been times in my life when I actually got up at 9 pm to drive cross country and be at the perfect location at the perfect moment.

    The fact that John Shaw is handholding durung a sunrise landscape is a great testament to how far we have advanced technically in photography

    Great blogging John!

  6. Juan Carlos Vindas July 9, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    John for months I have been reading your books and you always advise us to use a ´´sturdy´´ tripod but I read here that you handhold the camera for the first image. I do love the image is just that I am a bit confused since you make especial enphasis on the use of a tripod. I did followed your advise and bought my self a heavy one!


    • John July 9, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

      I was in a situation where a tripod was impossible to use, hence handholding the camera was the only answer.

      • Wayne Nelson July 11, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

        I think we are all happy to read that John. Great moody shots either way.

      • Juan Carlos Vindas July 19, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

        I see John, and it makes a lot of sense, thanks for your reply.

  7. Rajesh July 11, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    Hi John….it is in your workshop that I learnt the value of photographing at pre-dawn. My photo of Sierra Nevada is still the best. Never stopped after that. Thanks.

  8. steeve marcoux July 14, 2013 at 4:31 am #

    beautiful captures, i just came across your “new” website and Blog…. i’m a little late. I’ve been a fan of your photography for a long time, i have most of your books and will certainly follow your Blog from now on.

    Thank you for helping others getting better.

  9. steeve marcoux July 14, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    Forgot to ask, why didn’t you use a tripod and a lower ISO setting?
    Did you wanted to test your 80-400mm VR ?

    • John July 14, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      See my reply above. If I could have used a tripod I would have…and also would have shot at a lower ISO. The choice was shoot handheld at a higher ISO or not photograph at all. Easy choice, in my opinion. And I’m very pleased with the results. Does this mean I’m not going to use a tripod? Not at all. I’ll always use one whenever I possibly can.

  10. Andrew McLachlan July 17, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    Hi John, fabulous photos!!! Love the first one best. I have heard good things about the new 80-400 and plan to upgrade to it shortly. Currently I still use the old version, but did changed the tripod collar to the one available from Kirk Enterprises to improve the tripod mounted stability of the lens. Assuming the tripod collar is better on the new version?

  11. steeve marcoux July 17, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Thank you for the answer, looks like a very good lens from what i’ve read on the net and the photos.

  12. Chuck Sterling July 18, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    Hi John,
    I have always admired your photos. So glad to hear you like the new 80-400. I got one for my recent trip to Denali and was not disappointed. Had luck with the mountain and range across Wonder lake at 1am. I hope that is not too early for you! Looking forward to the Van Os trip to Antarctica this coming November!!!