the set up – cincinnati sunrise



I've gotten a lot of great comments and questions about the Cincinnati Sunrise series and thought you might appreciate knowing how I planned for the shoot.

The original idea was formed during one of my many return trips from Atlanta. Inevitably, I would end up going through Cincinnati at night and always thought that the view of the city at night was spectacular. I would think about how it would look at sunset and sunrise. Being a morning person, I naturally tended to gravitate towards the sunrise version.

One of the most common questions that I have recieved was 'How did you know where to go?' I don't know Cincinnati that well and finding a place to shoot the sunrise with so little time to experiment seemed daunting. When I don't know an area, I turn to google maps and this time around Google was able to nail the location for me. I use google maps quite often and it has proven to be pretty reliable.


Screen shot 2011-08-28 at 2.42.59 PM


I knew that Mt. Adams, to the east, of downtown had great views of the city and the river. If I wanted to catch the sunrise reflected off of the buildings, Mt. Adams would have been a great choice. I wanted to capture the sun rising behind the city, so Mt. Adams was out. I did know that there was a ridgeline to the west of downtown and started looking in that direction.


Screen shot 2011-08-28 at 3.11.12 PM


Zooming in and switching to terrain view, I could see that there were two parks on the ridge to the west of downtown that might fit the bill. Wilson Common was closer to the city but, Mt. Echo had the Ohio river between the park and the city. To me, Mt. Echo seemed like the better location. To check, I searched google images for photos from the park and was able to confirm that the park had the perfect view.

The next step was to nail down the sunrise itself. To do that I turned to a wonderful and free program called The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE).


Screen shot 2011-08-28 at 2.38.12 PM


If you are not familiar with TPE, it is a nifty little program that gives you all of the information that you could possibly about the moon and sun. You get times and directions to both the setting and rising sun/moon. In addition, you get the times for all three morning and evening twilights. We all grew up thinking that if you wanted to find the sunrise, you turned due east and there it was. In actuality, due east is not really correct. The direction varies with the date and location.

TPE uses the Google Maps API and draws lines from the location you chose to show where the sun and moon rise and set. Following the lines from Mt. Echo, I was able to see that the line for the sunrise bisected the downtown Cincinnati area. Perfect. As an added bonus, TPE showed that the moon would also be in the east during the sunrise.

So, before I even left my house, I was able to know the following:

1. That Mt. Echo was in the perfect location and had a great view of downtown Cincinnati

2. That the sun would rise behind the city

3. The time of sunrise and twilight

4. That the moon would also be in the eastern sky during sunrise

At this point, I was comfortable about the time and location. Another web search informed me that the weather would also be good. All that remained was to prepare and pack my gear. Here is what I brought along:

Sony a55v body

18-55mm lens

70-210mm lens

Heavy tripod

Remote shutter release

Small flashlight

Spare battery

Spare memory card

With those items packed in my back pack, I was ready to go and I had a reasonable expectation that the shoot would be a success. The next time you are searching for a location for an image that you have in mind, look on the web. Check google maps, the weather and google images to find the perfect site for you. You will be surprised at how well prepared you can be without even leaving your couch.


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