Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Three views of sunrise clouds

with 38 comments

When I went outside my house on the morning of December 22nd last year I saw colorful sunrise clouds, as shown above at 7:15. The trees across the street partially obstructed the view, so, hoping for a better shot, I drove east and at 7:23 pulled into a parking lot. Below is what I saw from there, which I think you’ll agree had gotten more fiery.

Then I continued a little further east. At 7:27 from another parking lot I photographed this beguiling cloud:

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 4, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

38 Responses

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  1. Nice captures of morning skies. As you noted, trees and other obstructions often cause us to look harder for the right shot. I’m particularly fascinated by the last image. It reminds me of waves crashing in the shallows along a beach. I would never have guessed those were clouds at all!


    January 4, 2021 at 7:04 AM

    • When I saw that last cloud formation I scrambled to find an unobstructed vantage point and took nine pictures of the formation, including one in a vertical orientation. I hadn’t thought about a resemblance to waves but now I see it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2021 at 8:34 AM

  2. Ooo I really like that last one! My fav is when a front rolls through and you have sunrise colors with different clouds on either side of the front line. Hurricane clouds forming are pretty cool too, even if the approaching storm is typically not.


    January 4, 2021 at 7:36 AM

    • That last one is distinctive. I got excited to see it and was pleased to find a good place to record it. You’ve given a different meaning to the phrase “the front line,” which is usually associated with war. And speaking of destruction, hurricane clouds strike me as a dubious pleasure.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2021 at 8:39 AM

  3. The last one looks like an upside down shot of a prairie fire. Very cool.


    January 4, 2021 at 7:52 AM

    • Good imagination (conditioned by experience): an upside down prairie fire. If I’d presented the picture upside down, I don’t know if anyone would have noticed anything out of order.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2021 at 8:41 AM

      • It would be a fun experiment 🙂


        January 6, 2021 at 8:39 AM

  4. Oh, how glorious it must have been! The color doesn’t last long enough for me to drive anywhere better the times we’ve had color.


    January 4, 2021 at 8:00 AM

    • Some photographers go out to scenic spots before dawn in hopes that the sunrise will be good. This area suffers from a lack of such places—or at least I haven’t found them—so most of my sunrise pictures have focused on the clouds themselves.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2021 at 3:26 PM

  5. Excellent views of the shifting clouds as they change and the light changes. Coincidentally, recently posted a few shots of late afternoon clouds on FB – some unobstructed – some with foreground plants silhouetted to give perspective. Nothing as spectacular as the second and third shots, which reminds one of James Taylors line “The sky’s on fire” from “Carolina in My Mind.” Fortunately (or not) this morning’s sky is as clear as the deep blue sea (slightly impaired by the Austin smog layer)..


    January 4, 2021 at 10:03 AM

  6. Stunning shots! I’m always amazed at the rapid change of sunset colors and formations. You capture that well.


    January 4, 2021 at 1:27 PM

    • Thanks. As soon as I saw what was happening that morning I sprang into action, and it paid off (which isn’t always the case). Central Texas is no New Mexico, but occasionally we get a good show.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2021 at 3:40 PM

  7. Spectacular beginning of a day. Whenever I see a sunrise, I think of Marcus Aurelius: When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …”


    January 4, 2021 at 4:29 PM

    • That’s a good exhortation by Marcus Aurelius. It was certainly a privilege to see colorful sunrise clouds that morning. Would that Austin had sunrises of that sort more often.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2021 at 4:46 PM

  8. I love the way the last one looks so like flames – very striking!

    Ann Mackay

    January 4, 2021 at 5:56 PM

  9. Nice captures, Sreve. It’s good to go the extra mile. 😉

    Eliza Waters

    January 4, 2021 at 8:15 PM

  10. Rose colored clouds are beautiful but I am definitely partial to those molten golden colors.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 4, 2021 at 10:20 PM

    • Me too. Your phrase “molten golden” has a good sound to it. When I searched for the phrase online I found a sauce for sale called “Palmetto Pepper Potions Molten Golden.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2021 at 6:09 AM

  11. The last is sort of unusual, looks more like an ocean wave. I like the combination of colors in the first.

    Steve Gingold

    January 5, 2021 at 5:02 AM

    • If only I’d had your kind of scenic landscape to put under those clouds. Several people have now connected the clouds in the last picture to something else, whether fire or a wave.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2021 at 6:12 AM

  12. That final cloud really is fascinating. I often view the Astronomy Picture of the Day (https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html) and I always love when they show interesting cloud photos with descriptions of what type of cloud it is and how it forms. So much variety out there in the sky.

    Todd Henson

    January 5, 2021 at 10:01 AM

    • Variety indeed. Clouds are a favorite photographic subject of mine. Most of my pictures are of wispy ones, which are the kind we often get here. I don’t usually see wispy ones looking as fiery as in the third picture, so naturally I made several portraits of those in different compositions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2021 at 11:44 AM

  13. If you hadn’t specified that these were sunrise clouds, I’d have thought they belonged to a sunset. There’s no doubt a reason our sunsets typically are more dramatic than our sunrises, but I don’t know what it is. I do know these are beautiful. Once again, they serve as a reminder that I need to find myself a spot with unobstructed views of the sky. It’s been a full year since I moved, and I still haven’t done it. I can’t think of a single reason, other than simple laziness.


    January 8, 2021 at 9:08 AM

    • I, too, have the impression that sunsets are more magnificent than sunrises. Maybe it’s because I’m not nearly as often out observing sunrises, which generally requires leaving home in the dark. I’ve done that occasionally, waiting in places where I hope the sunrise will be good. Sometimes it has been, as here:


      Like you, I’ve yet to identify a good elevated location to stake out sunrises from.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 8, 2021 at 10:15 AM

    • One factor is pollution and other particles in the atmosphere after a day’s human activity. I had thought that but am sharing this link that offers that and a perception explanation also.

      Steve Gingold

      January 8, 2021 at 10:45 AM

      • Also, humidity and cloud formation play a role here. Many mornings are perfectly clear, without a cloud in the sky. By late afternoon, clouds can be abundant — especially in summer — and the light reflecting off them adds to the drama.


        January 8, 2021 at 10:47 AM

        • That’s what happened here today: clear at sunrise for a while after, now mostly clouded over. A good incentive to stay home and resuscitate old pictures.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 8, 2021 at 10:56 AM

      • Thanks for the informative link. So the Hollywood crowd isn’t awake for sunrises: what a surprise.

        Steve Schwartzman

        January 8, 2021 at 10:53 AM

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