Blue Hour Sky - Monument Valley, Navajo Nation

Like most photographers, I love a great sunrise, especially when you have iconic subjects that anchor your photo in the foreground. The great colors don't necessarily start when the sun peeks over the horizon. The light show actually starts well before sunrise and comes in five distinct phases. Each stage has a name: Astronomical Dawn, Nautical Dawn, Civil Dawn, Sunrise and the Golden Hour. I won't bore you with the description of each, but serious photographers will get to a location much earlier than the time of sunrise. To give you an idea of how long each lasts, these are the times today in Connecticut:

  • Astronomical Dawn (the time before this is Full Darkness) - 5:35am
  • Nautical Dawn - 6:08am
  • Civil Dawn - 6:42am
  • Sunrise - 7:12am
  • Morning Golden Hour - 7:12am (lasts for a little over an hour)

As you can see, the light starts over an hour before sunrise happens. So, if you want to experience the full breath of light at dawn, set your alarm clocks earlier. This photo above was taken at the beginning of Civil Dawn of the Mittens and Merrick Butte in Monument Valley. Anyone just getting there at sunrise would still have a beautiful golden sunrise, but would have missed these colors and not have been aware of what they could have had.