It's a crisp -4°C as I try de-icing my car as quietly as possible at 4am on an early March morning in northeast Wales.
A brief window of clear weather in an otherwise endless parade of clouds, snow and fog was all the motivation I needed to be up and about at this unearthly hour, ready to head off to my local hill, Moel Famau, for a spot of star gazing and photography.
Quarter of an hour later and I'm in the Pen Barras car park, looking east over the Clwydian Forest and the 'V' shaped valley between the twin peaks of Moel Famau to the north, and Feol Fenlli to the south.
This is a great location for time lapse photography, because as the sky to the east lightens through the various stages of twilight, the valley fills with light, just like a luminious cocktail being poured into one of the those posh conical glasses.
With clear night skies overhead, the milky way arching through the deep blue heavens from north to south and the orange glow of the streetlights of Mold adding a touch of contrasting colour on the horizon I was well excited and keen to begin my time lapse sequence before the sky started to lighten.
But photographing time lapse sequences in these conditions requires some careful preparation first, such as making sure everything is nailed down tight so the camera doesn't move once the composition is sorted, getting the focus spot on, setting all the exposure controls to manual, calculating the correct shooting interval, fitting a heater to the lens to make sure the front glass element doesn't mist up, and finally setting the exposure as far to the right of the camera's histogram as it will go without clipping highlights.
Having done all that I was finally able to set the camera off at 4.30am, just on the cusp of astronomical twilight when the sky starts imperceptibly to lighten to the east.
Although I couldn't notice the intial change in brightness my camera could, and I spent the next two hours making 1/3rd stop adjustments to the exposure settings every few frames as the light crept upwards from the bottom of the valley, slowly extinguishing the stars as day chased the night away.
I finished the shoot at 6.30am, having spent two hours stood in one spot in the freezing cold hunched over my camera.
A set of decent cold weather clothing and footware helps enormously here, but I was certainly glad to get back home and into a hot shower before making my way to my day job.
But what a way to start the day, watching in awe as the clockwork of God's creation ticks around in its celestial dance of dark and light.
Filename - moel famau dawn timelapse 04.mp4
Camera - Canon 6D
Lens - 14mm prime
Exposure (start of sequence) - 15 secs @ f2.8, ISO2500
Exposure (end of sequence) - 1/500 sec @ f2.8, ISO100
Filters - None.
Shooting interval - 15 seconds
Location - Moel Famau, North Wales
This clip - HD 720p 30fps
Clip duration - 18 secs
All content copyright © Howard Litherland 2009-2018 unless otherwise stated.