My husband and I just returned from eight days on the beach, and I made it my practice to witness the sun rise over the ocean every morning with my camera. This isn't as hard as it seems, since Florida is on Eastern time, and the sun doesn't rise until a little after 7 this time of year. I'm not much for sleeping in anyway.
Each day I'd be on the beach by 6:45, when it was just getting light and watch as the night turned to morning and hints of color appeared on the ocean's horizon. By observing carefully I saw that there were two times each morning when the colors were at their peak. The first time occurred before the sun was visible, casting its light upward on the clouds and sky in a way that they were often brilliantly illuminated.
Every morning was different, and the presence of scattered clouds contributed significantly to the brilliance of color from the sun's rays. This intensity would fade out a bit before the sun appeared -- slowly it would show a sliver at the horizon, often partially obscured by clouds. Then as it rose, the red/orange intensity would make itself visible. I could capture this on camera effectively as the sun wasn't yet so intense as to be blinding. Here are a few examples from my shoot. Note that you can click on these images to enlarge them.
My idea for doing mixed media pieces with photography and painting is becoming more concrete and I'll be experimenting soon. Hopefully some will be ready to show at my February exhibition here in Nashville. I'm still working on my "Lotus Lake" painting, which I should have finished within a few weeks.