Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Learn Landscape Photography Series: When?

Welcome to the world of chasing the sky. It's Ironic that a landscape photographer has to focus more attention on what's happening in the sky above than on the land below. But it's the light from the sky that will make the most of your images going forward and for the most part it can be planned.

The magical "Golden Hour" as you may have heard over and over again is the hour of soft light the sun gives subjects as it rises and sets. So show up a half hour before sunrise or sunset, take a couple shots, and your a photographic icon. OK now back to reality, in order to get the most possibilities from a location I like to break it down into a two hour window for shooting. Don't forget to give yourself enough time to hike into the location and set up everything.

Landscape photography by Nick Oman Photography.
Blue Hour

About an hour and a half before sunrise a little light will be brightening things up in a nice soft blue. Call it "Blue Hour". During this blue period you can really set a cooler tone to your photos. The next change in light will be when the sun starts to brighten up any clouds. Look for the pinks, reds, and then the oranges to really start to come alive anywhere from forty-five to thirty minutes before sunrise. As the colors start to fade out of the clouds, take notice of the sun bathing it's now warm light on what's behind you. You already planned for this didn't you? It's OK it can be more of a bonus shot anyway.  Plus we're at the point of the actual sunrise. Look for it to just barely peak out in order to capture a nice sun-star(I'll be giving more tips on sun-stars later in the series), which is perfect for when the clouds are non-existent.

The next time and really my favorite for taking dramatic images is sunset. It works in the opposite of sunrise with the distinct advantage of being able to see what you are actually doing! So of course the same deal, check your back up to an hour before the actual sunset, look for a sun-star at sunset, and hopefully enjoy the color show after the sun goes down. As the color in the clouds begin to fade the blue hour will start to set in. ***On a side note I find this is the best time for cityscapes since there is actually other people awake besides you and they will have their lights on(unlike early morning). As a photographer this is the scenario we always hope for, but often mother nature has other ideas. One more tip for sunsets and possibly the best is don't give up until you are sure everything is done. I don't know how many times the most amazing displays of nature have happened just when it looked like all would be lost. Be patient and wait, you don't want to be heading home only to see the sky explode in brilliant colors behind you. Trust me it sucks and you will probably cry a little!

You don't always have to get up at the crack of dawn or stay out into the wee hours of the night for drama. Storms can make for some spectacular scenes in midday. Storm fronts tend to be the most exciting and turbulent, were as the back of the storm can be beautifully serene and peaceful. Capturing either conditions can be tricky, not only for timing, but to not get soaked, frozen, or hit by lightning. If you prevail though the images can be sublime! Other landscape opportunities that can happen in the middle of the day are when the weather calls for overcast skies. You would think that gray skies would lead to flat dull images, but it is actually a great time to shoot waterfalls and foliage. The clouds act as a giant diffuser, perfect for limiting harsh shadows and bright reflections in the water and leaves. Kind of similar to what a polarizing filter* does.

*You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the need for filters so far. That's because between improving software, selective timing to shoot, and better HDR techniques, filters are becoming less and less important to getting the shot you envisioned. I'll go into the details of filters later on in the series and let you decide if you need them or not.  

Now for the total opposite of midday shooting and with it, little to no sleep, is astrophotography or night photography. This type of photography almost boils down completely to the "when" of shooting. First, is the Milky Way visible during the time of year for the location you are in, not to mention if it's dark enough? Then the moon's activity needs to be accounted for. Surprisingly bright ,the moon will dim all but the brightest stars and ruin any chance of capturing the Milky Way. Oh and once you've accounted for all of this you have to wait for brightest section of the galaxy to line up with the composition you planned for. You did plan for one right?

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