Chicago Food and Travel Photographer

Napa Valley Sunrise Photography

I recently vacationed in beautiful Napa Valley, California, where I enjoyed plenty of wine tasting, and more importantly, capturing the scenery in photos. My last trip to Napa this past spring was a whirlwind trip that left me with only a few quick photo opportunities between vineyard visits; this time I had four full days to drag myself out of bed each morning to shoot - and the lack of sleep was well worth it! Not shockingly, the pure beauty of Napa Valley gave me just enough energy to get up each morning to take photos.



We stayed near downtown Napa which gave me easy access to the entire valley. Our rental house had an impressive, picturesque view which I knew would be my first shoot, but I still had to figure out where else I was going to shoot.  As we explored the valley I bookmarked each location that looked perfect for a sunrise shot and kept a tally on my phone. GPS makes for a great photo shoot assistant.


I'm in the process of buying a roller bag to accommodate all of my gear.  In the meantime I've been packing up my Lowepro AW250 with as much as I can, which forces me to choose favorite lenses as I can't fit my Nikon 28-70 f2.8 , Nikon 80-200 f2.8 and my wide angle in the bag at the same time. I opted to bring my wide angle lens and my Nikon 28-70 f2.8 this time, which proved to work out. There were times I would have liked to have my Nikon 80-200 f2.8, but that's life. The moral of the story: stop being cheap and get a rolling bag!


Anyway, back to the adventure..... Day 1 and I'm up (amazingly) at 5:00 am. The sun is not up and I realized I made a slight miscalculation. Due to the mountain range the sun doesn't peak above the mountains until after sunrise. Luckily, the extra 20 minutes gave me time to make sure all the settings were ready to go on my Nikon D800, which I had forgotten being my first time shooting HDR since I got my D800. Settings... Check. Now it was time to play around with my new Lee Filter Set and my 0.9 ND Grad. Looks like I needed that extra time anyway.


In a place like Napa Valley you can't help but feel like one with nature as you are surrounded by this lush intense beauty. As the sun started to approach the mountain line I just sat there admiring the whole process in awe and of coursing shooting the whole time.

Later that day we headed out on our wine tour.  We wound our way from vineyard to vineyard and stopped at some old and new favorites: Silver Oak , Inglenook, Beaulieu Vineyard and Palmaz Winery - bookmarking of course along the way.

Day 2 was definitely harder to get out of bed than Day 1, but today I had car keys and was ready to travel. I explored the north area of the valley, near Yountville and got some great morning shots. It's hard to look for locations while driving but luckily there aren't many people on the road at that time. Shooting in Napa is pretty amazing but it can also be a challenge since the light I prefer lasts only about 25 minutes this time of year.

The final two days I made my way over to the Domain Carneros area and explored the surrounding miles. Unfortunately, there was one location that I wanted to shoot but didn't have time to go to. Pride Mountain is breathtaking from what I hear so I was a little disappointing that I didn't get to see it or shoot any pictures. Judging from the shots I got and what will end up going in my portfolio I'd say this was a very successful trip. Now that I'm home I wish I was back; I see how people fall in love with California and never come home. I'll just have to hang some of my sunrise shots in my condo to remind me of those early morning adventures...