Sunrises Over Lake Marion At Santee State Park

Lake Marion Sunrises

I was encouraged to enter some of my artwork in a contest hosted by the South Carolina State Parks known as the Artist In Residence (AIR).  Never having entered any contests (or having shown my work to anyone outside of friends and family), I was pleasantly surprised upon winning a slot.  Being a recipient gave me a free one week stay at a cabin in Santee State Park in exchange for a donation of my work.  It was a fantastic opportunity, and I brought back more than 1,400 images (it was like a photographic vacation).  I spent most of my early mornings within the state park boundaries, but I used the remainder of the days to discover areas of the National Wildlife Refuge that I did not previously know existed (e.g., Bluff Unit, Dingle Pond Unit, Pine Island Unit, and the superb Cuddo East).

I wanted to add some sunrise compositions to my body of work, so I used Google Maps to get a feel for spots within the park that offered the possibility of a good view before I left home.  I planned to explore the Lake Marion shoreline for an area that had some foreground interest while being positioned to catch the sun coming up.  After checking in, I used the remaining daylight to do some scouting and found a pretty good location just off from the connector trail that runs from the Cypress View Campground to the Bike Trail.

From a photographic perspective, the first morning was a bust.  The sky was so choked with clouds that color couldn’t even be seen through them.  As far as an outdoor nature experience goes, I enjoyed myself regardless of not creating a single composition.

 

Sunrise over riled Lake Marion at Santee State Park in Santee, South Carolina
Surf’s Up

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The second morning, Mother Nature didn’t present what I had initially envisioned, but she provided an excellent option none-the-less.  In my Surf’s Up piece, Lake Marion was riled by blowing winds and waves that were rolling to the point of producing white caps.  Since the area that I planned on using was cloud choked again, I moved my tripod so that I could position the camera to where some color was able to break through above the horizon.  Compared to an ocean or one of the Great Lakes, Lake Marion is fairly small which made me feel like what I was witnessing was unusual.  It was captivating to hear the water crash into the shore and watch it fly up in the air.  To show the power of the wind and waves breaking along the shore, I used a shutter speed that captured the spray.

 

Sunrise over Lake Marion at Santee State Park in Santee, South Carolina
Socked In

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The third morning, I decided to try a different location, but it was unproductive, so on the fourth morning I returned to the original site.  Compared to the second morning, the mood was peaceful and calm.  While clouds were blocking the sun, the magic light still found its way into my Socked In piece.  Using the longest shutter speed possible without going to a special setting really brought out the feeling of tranquility.  Because of the shutter speed, the lake is velvety smooth and the mixture of pastel colors helps convey the serenity I felt that morning.  I love the raccoon tracks in the sand near the shoreline on the lower left hand side, and the logs and roots make a visually interesting foreground contrasted against the silky lake.

 

Sunrise over Lake Marion at Santee State Park in Santee, South Carolina
Shore Glow

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On the fifth morning, Mother Nature produced a constantly changing light show.  The intensity of the light and the warmth it generated was welcome on that early spring morning.  To create that feeling in my Shore Glow piece, I, once again, used the longest shutter speed to smooth out the surface of the lake and capture the reflection of light on its surface from the horizon all the way back to the shore.

 

Sunrise over Lake Marion at Santee State Park in Santee, South Carolina
Got Silk?

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Not even ten minutes had passed before I created Got Silk?, and the clouds blocking the light had continued to change and shift.  More light was available but it wasn’t as intense, and that made the scene feel a bit cooler.  To portray that, I switched to a horizontal orientation that allowed for more of the blues to come in and increased the shutter speed while keeping the lake surface somewhat flat.

 

Sunrise over Lake Marion at Santee State Park in Santee, South Carolina
Lake Marion Sunrise

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After watching the light transform for nearly another half an hour, I created Lake Marion Sunrise.  This was very close to what I had imagined capturing before arriving and while scouting potential sites.  Watching the gold, orange, and red colors shimmer on the water was a real treat.  I love sunrises.  To me, the root system looks a bit like an oar fish with an open mouth and a large eye looking back at the viewer.  I was pleased to be able to donate a print of this to the Santee State Park, and if you visit the Ranger Station, you’ll see it hanging on their wall.

To see related pieces, click here

I will share more photos and stories from the SC AIR trip during upcoming blog posts.

Author: Steven Dillon

Discover behind-the-scenes details, aesthetic decisions, artistic visions, and compositional choices for my pieces in The Artist’s Story posts.

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