Sunrise at the Chittenden Reservoir on Thanksgiving Day, 22 November 2012.

A surprising number of my holidays start this way – out in the cold, roving around a lake or through the woods, usually by myself.  And maybe that sounds a little undesirable  but really it isn’t.  There’s something nice about starting the day off peacefully.  And I love being outside at sunrise when the world is still.  On a day like this – Thanksgiving – it’s a chance to really think about what I have and am thankful for.

In one way, holiday mornings are best for this kind of adventure, because no matter how far I walk or how cold my fingers get, I know that when I’m done and head home, it’s going to be warm and welcoming.  On other mornings I might have to go home and make coffee and instant oatmeal to warm up, but not this time – holidays mean going home to family, and on this day in particular walking in to the first smells of cooking turkey, to breakfast underway, and to the rest of a really good day.

Sunrise at the Chittenden Reservoir on Thanksgiving Day, 22 November 2012.

Alright, enough “feel good” blather.  I was in Vermont for Thanksgiving and want to share some images from the trip across the next couple of posts.  This is, naturally, Thanksgiving morning up at Chittenden Reservoir and Lefferts Pond.  I can’t even begin to add up the hours I’ve spent here over the years.  Suffice to say that I’ve done a lot of hiking, a lot of kayaking, and a lot of photography here over the past 11 years or so.   It’s home turf.

I had hoped for a good sunrise, but the sky was bald.  I had hoped for some snow on the mountains – or even all around – but there wasn’t any.  Oh well, so make the best of it. Mountains reflecting in the still morning water are still photogenic, and it became a project of working with the light as best I could, trying to balance the shadows against the brightening sky and first light on the peaks.

Sunrise at the Chittenden Reservoir on Thanksgiving Day, 22 November 2012.

Sunrise at Lefferts Pond on Thanksgiving Day, 22 November 2012.

Not having been out with the camera in too long, it was also a chance to knock a little rust out of my brain.  I worked with the 14mm, 25mm, 45mm, and 70-300 lenses, although mainly the middle two primes.  The 14mm ended up being too wide and caught too much extraneous crap in the photos, without enough emphasis on the subject; the 70-300 was good for a few longer shots, but even at 75mm was just a little longer than I wanted.  (I need a 70-200-equivalent lens!)

Much of this morning was tripod work.  I shot in manual mode, f/8-f/11 depending on the lens, ISO 200.  When the sun was finally up and spilling over the mountains, I finally moved off-tripod and started shooting hand-held again, with a slight boost in ISO at first.  It was the same time I repositioned from the area between the reservoir and Lefferts to the marsh on the northeast side of Lefferts.

Sunrise at Lefferts Pond on Thanksgiving Day, 22 November 2012.

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It was a good move.  The marsh grass was coated in frost and, in the first sun, glowed.  It was one of those moments when I got out of the car and didn’t know which direction to point the camera first, because it was pretty much 360* of possibilities.  The solution?  Just shoot start framing shots and see if the constraints of the lens and camera keep it looking good.  And naturally there was some panorama shooting.  The image above was shot hand-held with a polarizer on the 25mm.

Sunrise at Lefferts Pond on Thanksgiving Day, 22 November 2012.

Sunrise at Lefferts Pond on Thanksgiving Day, 22 November 2012.

What might have been the best part, even more so than the joy of making the images, was that as soon as the sun was up, the temperature started rising.  I held up my gloved hand at one point to block the flare from the viewfinder and could feel the warmth on my hand.  After spending the last 90 minutes shivering and stomping around, trying to keep warm, that’s a real joy.

I wrapped up after this and headed home for breakfast.  Because you can’t stay out too late on a holiday morning, or your family will start breakfast without you!

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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