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One of my favorite activities at the Reno Air Races – or any airshow – is to shoot at sunrise. It gives me a chance to roll out some creativity. Everything takes on a different look in that magic hour. (1/2 hour before and after actual sunrise). 

As I have said in my “about” page – I try to keep an educational component to my posts. I owe so much to so many photographers for little hints and tips – and sometimes “What were you thinking” comments. It’s always about learning new things for me. 

The first thing you have to do is know when the sun is going to come up, Easy to find with todays smartphones, There are tons of apps that will do this for you and additionally let you now exactly where the sun will be on any given date. I know – everyone knows the sun rises in the east and sets in the west – but not exactly East or West except on two days a year. One of my favoites is PhotoPills. Not free but reasonable and gives you all the info you need. Next be sure to take a compass or download a compass app. so that you will know EXACTLY where the sun will appear.

©Bill Pekala 2021

Sunrise on the ramp at Reno has always been special. So many great planes to shoot and when the weather cooperates it’s magical. UNFORTUNATELY that has not been the senario this week. Smoke from the California fires and a wind out of the west – has pretty much killed sunrise. We did have a little clearing today so being out there every morning at 5:30 FINALLY PAID OFF.

©Bill Pekala 2022

There are several ways of shooting these early morning shots. First & maybe most important- you need a tripod. I have worlked with regular tripods but I find that most shots of planes need to be taken from a low angle in order to have separation between the plane and the pavement.

It will make your life easier – especially when you consider the alternative.






When I started out doing this type of photography- I used the old “silhouette” approach. Meter for the sky with the sun just out of the frame and shoot.

©Bill Pekala 

It works well but a couple of good friends and fellow photographers recommended that I try HDR (high dynamic range) photography. (Bill Fortney & Richard Small – they are both listed in my page “Useful Links”)  You can learn all about it on the web – but it’s basically a series of bracketed shots that are combined together. It gives you come detail in the shadow areas instead of just a silhouette.

©Bill Pekala 2022 (9 shot bracket – over and under)










You need some software – I use Photomatrix Pro and also Aurora HDR. Some of the major photo editing programs now have HDR functions in them also.

Here is a gallery of some of the Reno morning ramp shoots. As I said – it a magical time.

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