Capturing the perfect sunrise

Chris Bray finally nails the coveted shot of an animal silhouetted against the African sunrise.
By Chris Bray December 12, 2013 Reading Time: < 1

I’VE BEEN TRYING TO to photograph a decent animal silhouetted against the African sunrise since forever.

Finally, after running my seventh photo safari to Kenya, I snapped this shot in September of this year. Let me tell you, it’s harder than you’d think!

Not only must you be awake and located near an iconically-shaped animal (like a rhino, or this giraffe) before the sun appears, you also need the animal to strike just the right side-on pose at the right time.

Ideally, this will take place next to an aesthetic foreground object, like this tree. As the sun slides up, you only have a minute or two of perfect lighting. This is usually wasted re-positioning yourself to slot the ever-rising sun neatly behind the animal, which nonchalantly wanders forwards then backwards, oblivious to the frustration it is causing.

On top of all this, you also have to get your camera settings right – like high ISO so you don’t get a slow, sloppy photo; under-exposing for the silhouette; and maybe setting white-balance to ‘shade’ for some extra warmth.

To get sunlight beneath the animal’s body and reveal its lovely legs, I actually had to hold my camera at arm’s length out of my car window, otherwise it would have appeared as a neck protruding from a blob.

I want you to appreciate why I was so happy – and lucky – to get this shot. Next time though, I want a sunrise silhouette of a lion. Chasing a gazelle.

Find out more about Chris Bray’s photo safaris