For Westport photographer Stacy Bass, daybreak is the most exquisite time of day.

It is no wonder, then, that her second coffee-table book is "Gardens at First Light" (Athome Books, $60), a celebration of the sublime in light, color and composition.

Featuring 200 photos from 12 private Fairfield County gardens, including her own, the hardcover book features text by Judy Ostrow and garden design drawings by James Gerrity.

Bass says that although many amateur photo buffs mistakenly believe that mid-afternoon is the best time to shoot gardens, "it's the worst," with patches that are in direct sunlight while others are enveloped by jarringly dark shadows. At dawn, she says, the light "is more even."

But beyond technical concerns, Bass loves the early-morning experience. "It's so peaceful and serene and quiet. I'm wide awake (because) it's so inspirational and it feels very special -- and a perfect fit for my personality.

"I never expected dawn to be my muse, but there it is."

Her first book, "In the Garden" (Melcher, 2012), focused on 18 private gardens in Connecticut, each beautiful in their own way.

"After that book was completed, I always knew I had another one in me," she said. Included in the new book is a variety of gardens, from rustic to formal, in Westport, Fairfield, New Canaan, Darien, Stamford, Greenwich and Weston. Edible, rose and gardens decorated with sculpture are among the selection.

"Whenever I was on tour" promoting the (first) book, "it seemed that people could not get enough of the photos" and the landscaping ideas they represented. "And people were always asking: `So what's your garden like?' "

Interestingly, she didn't have one.

"So you could say, that my first book inspired us to do a garden on our property. The swing set had to go," she said laughing, noting that she has a "small plot of land" on a tidal inlet facing Long Island Sound -- "nothing huge and grand." (She and her husband, Howard Bass, have four children, ages 14-28).

The results of her adventure in landscaping are captured in the chapter, "Picture Perfect," in which landscape architect Sean Jancski, of Rye, N.Y., transformed a space through "texture, shape and layering." Metal sculptures, a gas-fueled fire pit and an orb fountain are added eye-catchers, displayed among seasonal flowers, plantings and shrubs.

Bass says that she is particularly pleased that "Gardens at First Light" is "much more than another pretty book."

"For die-hard gardeners, there is a meaty `Garden Reference Guide' at the back of the book with detailed landscape information on each of the gardens" put together by artist Gerrity, with additional photos by Bass.

"It puts all the photos in context and can be a handy tool for anyone wanting to create their own gardens," she said.

Bass' work has been featured in numerous books and magazines, including House Beautiful, Design New England, Garden Design, Luxe Interiors + Design, Horticulture and California Homes.

Born in New York and raised in Westport, Bass graduated with a political science/photojournalism degree from Barnard College at Columbia University. After graduation, she attended the Maine Photographic Workshops, studying with such masters as Jay Maisel, Joe Baraban and William Albert Allard.

Bass said she was "emboldened by the experience," presenting her first solo exhibition in 1988.

But the realities of life intruded, and Bass headed for New York University's School of Law, focusing on copyright, trademark and art law -- and subsequently used her legal training to become vice president of Savoy Pictures Entertainment, a publicly traded motion picture and television company (working there until the company was purchased by Barry Diller's USA Networks).

In 2004, when her youngest child was entering kindergarten, Bass said in a previous interview that she realized, "It was time to reinvigorate my passion for photography and perhaps this time transform that passion into a viable and thriving career."

It was, she says, a great career move.

"I get great pleasure and satisfaction being a proxy for all those people who, for whatever reasons, are not able to explore these extraordinary places at such at early hour," she said.

A reception for Bass will take place on Thursday at White Birch Studio in Sconset Square, 15 Myrtle Ave., from 5:30-7:30 p.m.,