Shooting Mount Bromo at Sunrise

Most people visiting Indonesia think of Bali with its glorious beaches or the crystal clear waters of Lombok, but the country has so much more to offer. Java is the central island which holds most of the population of Indonesia but it’s one of the best places to explore in all of South-East Asia. From the thriving urban sprawl of Jakarta to the tranquillity of the Borobudur Temple, Java has so much to offer but seeing Mount Bromo at Sunrise is one of the most incredible experiences.

I was lucky enough to go on this trip with the Trip of Wonders 2017 organised by Wonderful Indonesia. If you’re planning a trip to Indonesia then this site has so much information about what to do and what to see. I didn’t have to organise a single thing on this whole trip and even though I was only there for a week, we packed so much amazing stuff in that is solidified Java as one of my favourite places I’ve ever visited.

Get there early

The biggest mistake beginner photographers make is arriving to a location AT sunrise. I did this a lot when I was starting out in photography, I would turn up while the sky was on fire but by the time I got my tripod set up the golden light was gone. It’s important to remember that the “golden hour” is roughly the half hour before sunrise and the half hour after it. You want to be on location an hour before to scope out some shots and make the most of the light when it hits. This is also crucial when shooting a popular tourist attraction so you can get an unobstructed view. The other reason to get there extra early is to enjoy the vast amount of stars that pepper the sky above the famous volcano.

Mount Bromo Sunrise

Look at the stars, look how they shine for you

Since our Mount Bromo Sunrise expedition was at the end of October, the sunrise was just after 5 am. We left Malang just before 2 am and when we got close to the volcano we switched from our minibus into an amazing old 4×4. A bumpy ride later and we had a quick 10-minute walk up to our viewpoint. This meant that we were at the location just after 3.30 in the morning.

We were rewarded for our early wake-up call by one of the most stunning skies I have ever seen. We could just about make out the outline of Bromo peaking out of a blanket of cloud in the dusty basin that surrounds it. The sky seemed to be dancing with the sheer volume of stars. The only light on the ground was from the small village of Ngadas and the fleeting orange glow coming from the sulphur mines hidden by the low lying cloud.

Mount Bromo sunrise stars

Shooting the stars

I was shooting with my 14mm Rokinon f2/8. This allowed me to get a huge field of view and show just how many stars we were dealing with. It really was one of those moments where you look at the screen on the back of the camera and gasp.

I think where this image really comes into its own is with a vertical shot. The night sky really seems to dwarf the impressive Bromo, and you can start to see the sunlight creep up from the left of the frame. I was still very new to astrophotography, and I didn’t know about stacking exposures, so these shots are a single frame and I pulled up the shadows from the foreground. In photography, there is always something to learn, and it simply means that I’m just going to have to go back and shoot this again!

The magic of Mount Bromo at Sunrise

We were already overawed with how stunning the stars were here and we were certainly not ready for the show the sky put on once the night gave way to the light. I decided that I wanted to get in close and compress the sky and the volcano into one shot. To do this, I used my 70-200mm lens and fully zoomed in to 200mm.

This resulted in one of my favourite images I’ve ever taken. It just has so many elements that came together. The subtle pink/orange glow on the clouds, the slight movement of the clouds around the peak and the texture and detail of Bromo itself. It just all happened and capturing an image like this is just one of the most rewarding feelings.

Mount Bromo at Sunrise

I was happy with that image and the light was changing quickly so I stuck my 14mm back on, and tried to take it all in. Generally, when you shoot this wide, you tend to lose your subject in the frame but there is so much going on in the foreground and in the sky that it really just creates a full, balanced image.

Mount Bromo at Sunrise wide