Can shooting sunrises before work boost health and success?

Rising before the crack of dawn is a challenge, but it can greatly benefit your health and success.

As a landscape photographer, I’ve shot my fair share of sunrises over the years, and I always come away from the experience feeling more focused, productive and generally more optimistic about tackling the day ahead. Turns out, there’s a good (scientific) reason I feel this way.

With several studies determining a link between early rising and success, plus plenty of famous billionaires and entrepreneurs (Michelle Obama, Apple’s CEO & Richard Branson) consistently getting up before dawn, it seems to be a free career booster that’s within reach for all of us regular people!

Shooting a sunrise before work also offers a boost to your general health and wellbeing. The quiet hours of distraction-free focus found only in the morning have a kind of meditative quality, giving your mind a chance to prepare and plan for the day. The very act of getting outside and feeling the first of the sun’s rays is a signal to your body to get active. To wake up properly and wholly, rather than press snooze three more times.

But life is busy. Squeezing in work, family and social commitments is tight, let alone putting time aside for self care. Surrounded by screens begging for attention, we’re often left “wired and tired”. This stuffs up sleep patterns, messes with our body clock, and long-term can even lead to obesity, diabetes or depression.

Embracing the early hours is your chance to steal a few quiet hours back. Shooting a sunrise usually equals less people, traffic and noise, plus minimal distractions via calls, texts, emails or social media notifications as everyone is still asleep. It’s a golden time! Our natural circadian rhythms want us to naturally rise with the break of daylight, or ‘blue light’, which helps energy-boosting cortisol production. Just as good as a cup of caffeine!

I’m no yogi, but according to Kundalini principles the time between 3:30am to 6am is the sweet spot of each day when it’s best to work on your mind, body and spirit… they call it the “ambrosial hours”. It’s also a belief in Ayurvedic philosophy that greater mental alertness is triggered by the sun’s first light. I just call it a bloody early start!

There is something special about a sunrise shoot. If you can get yourself into gear and outside before the sun’s up, you’ll capture one of the most beautiful subjects in the world of photography – and it’s waiting for you every, single day.

Plan your morning the night before, ensuring camera gear is prepared and packed, including fresh memory cards, clean lens, batteries charged and maybe pack a snack as a reward for not pressing snooze? Arrive early – you only get one sunrise, don’t miss it! Generally an hour beforehand allows enough time to set up your tripod and wait for the breaking light. Don’t forget to charge yourself up the night before too: grab a decent night’s sleep to enjoy the full list of benefits.

As a photographer, or simply a human, the benefits of shooting a sunrise include:

  • witness one of the greatest feats of nature
  • breathe in crisp, fresh, morning air
  • increased productivity
  • greater mental alertness
  • natural energy boost
  • less people interfering with your frame
  • less distractions in your head
  • peaceful, quiet setting
  • higher chance of experiencing low fog (thanks to cooler temps at night)
  • combine walking or hiking to the location for extra fitness
  • early a.m. light exposure correlated with lower BMI (Molly Maloof, MD)

You probably fall into one of two categories – an early bird or a night owl. Our modern reliance on technology means we no longer rise with the sun and go to bed with the moon, so the decision of when to rest is kind of our own call. So why not give sunrises a go.

Look at an early start as your head start.