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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 09/30/2009

An Amazing Pre-Storm Sunrise

By Kevin Ambrose

* Refreshing Fall Weather: Full Forecast | NatCast | UnitedCast *

The rising sun produces nice color in the sky over Washington as our storm system approaches Saturday morning.

I have found the most colorful sunrises occur as storm systems approach from the west with clear skies to the east. I was hopeful for a good sunrise Saturday morning because the forecast Friday night was for brief clearing followed by rain Saturday afternoon and evening as a storm system moved in from the southwest.

I awoke early Saturday morning and noticed the sky had total cloud cover. I checked Reagan Airport conditions and their observation was cloudy skies. It did not look good, perhaps too many clouds, and I was ready to jump back into bed. Then, I checked the current infrared (IR) satellite image and it showed clear skies reaching from the Atlantic Ocean west to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. That was a good sign, it would allow sunlight to undercut the clouds overhead as the sun rose to the east. I quickly saved the IR satellite image to my computer, packed my camera gear, and headed to D.C.

Keeping reading to see a wide view of the sunrise, the IR satellite image from Saturday morning, and a time lapse video of the sunrise.

A wide view of the sunrise Saturday morning over Washington, DC.

I had hoped to shoot the sunrise from the Lincoln Memorial but the D.C. police had the roads blocked for an event. I back-tracked to the Netherlands Carillon and set up my cameras for a photo shoot. The sky was just starting to show color as I started recording my time lapse video.

Within minutes, the color exploded across the clouds on the eastern horizon as the sun began to rise. An area running club, already into their morning run, made comments about the amazing view as they ran past. The sunrise color faded as quickly as it appeared and we were left with gray, cloudy skies after sunrise. The show was brief, but beautiful.

The IR satellite image shows clouds moving over the area from the west and southwest while areas of clear skies are over the Atlantic Ocean, extending westward to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. I had hoped the clear skies to the east of the area would allow sunlight to undercut the cloud cover over D.C. and produce good sunrise color.

A time lapse video of Saturday morning's sunrise, 45 minutes of video compressed into 30 seconds. The location was the Netherlands Carillon.

I was pleased that the time lapse video shows how the colors advance upward from the eastern horizon into the sky, then quickly fade away into gray. I have watched this many times while taking photos, but have never seen the progression in time lapse. I was slightly annoyed that I did not properly level the video camera, but it still shows the sunrise fairly well.

By Kevin Ambrose  | September 30, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Photography  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Fall Weather Worth Appreciating
Next: PM Update: A Shower or Two Before Chilly Night


Kevin - amazing photo and video. I always enjoy your sunrise shots, since I hardly ever catch one myself. The event at the Lincoln Memorial was a volunteer service project for National Public Lands Day.

Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | September 30, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Awesome color to the clouds. Looks like it was worth getting up for.

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | September 30, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

...Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning...

Anyone know of a good comprehensive online weather-lore site???

Posted by: Bombo47jea | September 30, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

amazing photo & video...

Posted by: madisondc | September 30, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

can you post the photos high-res? Would love to use it as computer wallpaper. Thanks!

Posted by: alansky1 | September 30, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Beautiful. As a photography-naive person though, I'm wondering something - did the first shot at the top involve the use of filters, or is that simply "straight"?

Thank you for posting these.

Posted by: B2O2 | September 30, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Thanks all. I did not use filters, it was indeed a colorful sunrise. Another photographer was with me at the Carillon and he ended up with photos that had deep shades of red in the sky. When the average jogger running past almost stops to make comments about the sunrise, you know it's pretty amazing.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | September 30, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

As a side note, I've noticed that many of the newer flat-panel computer monitors will display colors in very saturated shades. Thus, the colors you see on the monitor will often not print exactly the same way in a photo. You can work to color adjust monitors, but many people like the super-charged colors. So, while this sunrise was very colorful, some viewers may see a slightly more colorful version on their computer. As a photographer, I pay attention to these details, most people don't need to worry.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | September 30, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

very nice and thanks for the weather related tips to getting a nice sunrise shot

Posted by: spgass1 | September 30, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Beautiful...the stills and the video are both amazing.

Posted by: --sg | September 30, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: PaKo7 | September 30, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse


Great photos, very interesting article. I'm the guy that was next to Kevin. These images are straight out of the camera. That was one unbelievable morning.

Posted by: stlouistom | October 1, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

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