Photographing the Sunrise At Buckroe Beach

Crescent moon at twilight on a summer morning at Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Virginia.

August 18, 2021

Recently, I spent the morning in the field at Buckroe Beach photographing the sunrise. As usual I arrive around 45 minutes prior to sunrise at my location. I love to photograph the gorgeous colors of civil twilight. Often this period before sunrise, provides some of the best colors for your landscape photos.

About Buckroe Beach

Buckroe Beach is located just north of Fort Monroe on the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton, Virginia. The beach is three-quarters of a mile long with various areas of jetty rocks and a pier. This area offers various views of the Atlantic Ocean off the Chesapeake Bay. Buckroe Beach is one of the oldest recreational areas in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is one of my favorite local beaches to go out in the field photographing the sunrise.

Twilight Photography

Twilight is roughly the 30 minute time period prior to sunrise. Photographing at the twilight in the morning calls for me to arrive at my location in the dark. But I like to have time to get my photo gear out and find a spot on the beach to start off with. I always use my my tripod, camera timer, L-bracket on my camera and my wide angle lens to photograph seascapes or landscapes. I always move about on the beach looking for different compositions. Sometime, I have my tripod set up high, and sometimes I take it down low to photograph my beach compositions at the different angles. Twilight often gives the sky a blue color and is often called the “blue hour” among photographers.

Buckroe Beach at twilight on a summer morning in Hampton, Virginia.
The colors of the sky during twilight just prior to sunrise.

Changing Colors of Twilight

During the time of twilight the colors are constantly changing. This quality of light during twilight time creates wonderful seascape or beach images. I love how when I go out in the field at Buckroe Beach in the early morning, everything is all serene and peaceful.

Beach sunrise on a summer morning at Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Virginia.
I used a technique called long exposure photography with this image. Long exposure photography is when you use a very slow aperture to capture the motion of the water. My shutter speed was 2 seconds at f/22.

Silhouettes While Photographing the Sunrise

Photographing the sunrise at Buckroe Beach, or any other beach area, is where I like to try a lot of different types of compositions. Sometimes, if there are fishing boats or tankers out in the Chesapeake Bay, I will photograph them. On this morning I did not see any type of boats on the water, but I did find some other inspirations to create some silhouettes with the colors of the sky in the background. Every time I have been to Buckroe Beach to photograph the sunrise, there are usually quite a few people coming out to the beach to watch the sunrise.

On this morning, I was back on the beach away from the surf and behind the lifeguard station taking pictures of the lifeguard station with the colors of the sunrise behind it. Suddenly people started coming out to stand at the edge of the surf to watch the sunrise. This inspired me to try some silhouettes of people on the beach during the sunrise.

Silhouette of a couple watching the sunrise on a summer morning at Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Virginia.
Silhouette of a couple watching the sunrise on a summer morning at Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Virginia.
Silhouette of people at the beach with lifeguard station at sunrise on Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Virginia.
In this image I captured the silhouette of the lifeguard station as well as a person walking a dog and a group of children standing near the surf to watch the sunrise.

Bird Photography at Sunrise

One of the most important reasons that I love to photograph the twilight and sunrise at beaches is because I almost always find birds at the beach. However, today, other than the usual birds of pigeons and gulls, there were not too many birds that I was able to photograph. Usually during the summer there are a few dozen black skimmers that hang around on Buckroe Beach especially in the mornings. But on this morning, I only saw a few that were flying around the surf of the beach. I was fortunate to capture this silhouette of a black skimmer that was flying low to the surf.

Silhouette of a black skimmer (Rynchops niger) in flight over the water during sunrise at Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Virginia.
I captured this silhouette of a black skimmer flying low to the surf with the golden glow of the sunrise on the water. For this image, I used my Sigma 150-600mm lens handholding.

Photographing the sunrise at Buckroe Beach is always a magical experience for me. To watch and photograph a peaceful and serene moment with nature is a special time for me. The stillness of our earth as the sun rises up over the horizon is such an amazing moment that I like to document and share my images with others in hopes to inspire folks to appreciate our natural world.

The sun rises up on the horizon on a summer morning at Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Virginia.
As the sun rises up over the horizon, the colors have changed significantly since the twilight time period.

Thank you for reading my Field Notes blog, and I hope you will share this post with others.

Let’s protect our wildlife and nature!

All the very best,


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