Iwo Jima Sunrise

Iwo Jima Memorial at Sunrise

Iwo Jima Sunrise - © Copyright 2012 by William Beem

The Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial

The recipe for this kind of shot is pretty simple.  Get out of bed at Oh-Dark-Thirty and be at the location an hour before sunrise with your camera mounted on a tripod. Why so early?  Because the light is more dramatic before the sun actually rises. That's why you need to be there before the the Earth rotates into full view of the sun's black body radiation.  You just want the stuff on the fringe with long wavelengths, right? It's also because the sun sets on the other side, and the background would then be a 7-11 and some nondescript buildings.  Kinda sucks just to think about that angle. It also sucks to have to wake up and be on the move before the Marines get up, but sometimes that's just the way it is.

Don't worry, they caught up with me by the time I made it down to the Lincoln Memorial.

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  • Scott Baxter May 3, 2012   Reply →

    At one time I had a neighbor, an older lady who has since passed on, whose brother was one of the men in the original flag raising on Iwo Jima (which, as many know, is not the one in the famous photo on which this memorial is based). I wish she were still there so I could show this to her.

    Wow, William. That’s the most striking photo I’ve ever seen of this. And I swear I don’t lay down absolute superlatives like that very often. Almost moved me to tears. I swear my mind supplied a musical score for this image. Well done, sir. And there’s something poetic about a famous photo becoming a statue and then a photo again.

    • William Beem May 3, 2012   Reply →

      Thanks, Scott:

      There are so many little decisions and things that can impact a photo.  I knew that I wanted that orange glow in the background, and the only way to get it was to be there before the sunrise.  Even so, I took several brackets of shots.  Before this shot, the light was still on the Washington Monument, so it was all lit up in white.  I loved it, but I decided it was too wide.  The next shot had a series of airplanes lighting up the sky.  Then there was this shot, where the Washington Monument went dim and the wind started moving the flag.  For whatever reason, this is the one I liked the best out of the bunch.

      Even after trying it as HDR, I ended up going with 75% of one frame because it had the right sky and color.  I’ll always prefer to take bracketed exposures so I can do an HDR, but sometimes I just don’t need to do an HDR.  In this case, I thought the silhouette of the Marines (and Navy Corpsman) had more impact than showing detail.  It’s all subjective, which is why I like photography.

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