Tag Archives: Sunrise

Timing Is Everything

Have you ever wondered why photos of the same place can look so different?  Maybe you’ve seen some stunning photos of a place you’d like to visit while browsing a magazine or online.  Once you’re there and taking some photos of your own, you notice that they seem kind of blah.  Keep reading, maybe I can help.

Like the title of this post suggests, timing is everything!  One of the biggest differences between your blah photo and one from someone else that is drop dead gorgeous is the quality of light.  What does that mean?  For me it has always been referred to as the golden hour.  This usually refers to the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset.  The sun is low in the sky and the light can take on a rich, golden tone.  Of course this depends on where you are and what season you’re in.

Once the sun starts climbing, the light becomes more harsh and contrast increases.  That once beautiful scene can turn into something much less appealing (photographically speaking).  The dynamic range (the difference in light between the highlights and shadows) increases beyond the cameras ability to capture it.  You end up having to choose which one to base your exposure on, leaving you with either blown out highlights or black shadows with no detail.

One of the ways to continue photographing a scene when the sun starts to climb is to employ HDR (High Dynamic Range).  Typically you would make 3 exposures of the same scene (camera on a tripod is best), and merge them in post processing software like Photomatix.  HDR can help you create some wonderful mid-day shots that were at one time very difficult.  Some restraint is necessary to keep your image from taking on a cartoonish appearance.

That’s enough about HDR.  I’ve talked about it quite a bit in previous posts and you can look in my archives if you want to read more.  A google search will also take you to some very knowledgable folks with a lot of info on the subject.

Getting back to timing, there’s really nothing quite like capturing a scene early in the morning.  The air is fresh and clean, and the sun starts to paint everything in rich golden light.  Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?  Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out this way.  There are times when the sun just seems to pop up and the golden hour turns into the golden minute.  I’m sure there are some very good technical reasons for this, but I won’t try to guess as to what they are.  When this happens, I try to make the best of it.  There are times when the magic just isn’t going to happen and there’s nothing you can do about it but enjoy the rest of the day.

Luckily there’s one more chance in the day to try again.  Just because the light wasn’t great in the morning doesn’t mean it won’t be fantastic in the evening!  Conditions change, and you need to adapt.  Keep an eye on the sky and get ready.  Sometimes all it takes are a few clouds to turn a blank, boring sky into a breathing taking sunset!

Keep in mind the time that the golden hour happens is related to where you are.  If you are up in the mountains it’s going to be later than if you are on the flat land.  The sun has to get high enough to get over the mountain peaks.  It can also happen that sunrise may not be the best time for golden hour photos as sunset.  It can help you choose the best time for photos by doing some research.

The whole point of this post is to help you increase your odds of capturing that knock out photo.  I’m not saying that you can’t get some great mid-day shots, it can just be more difficult.  There are certainly many photographers that buck the odds and post some truly fantastic mid-day shots.  I’m trying to point out that you stand a better chance of hitting that home run by working with the golden hour light.

Here are some examples.  These are all from one of my favorite places for photography, Morro Bay.

I hope the examples above give you an idea of what I’m trying to describe.  There are a couple of photos that are blah, at least to my eyes.  There are also a few that really seem to work.  How do I know?  Hundreds of hits on various photo sharing websites!  It pleases me that other people/photographers also enjoy some of my work.  It motivates me to get out of bed and get out there to make more!

That’s it for this post.  Remember, timing is everything!
Until next time – Happy Shooting!

Getting to Know You!

One of the things I love about the Eastern Sierra is how familiar it has become.  In some ways, it almost feels like I’m going home every time my wife and I head out and up.

Silver Lake Reflections

The scene above was taken during my month long vacation last September/October.  During that time I was able to walk along the lake every day.

Although I’ve been to the Eastern Sierra many, many times, it was during my last visit that I really began to feel connected to the area.  There were patterns that I began to notice, such as when the sun would rise above the tall mountain peaks and bathe the lake with beautiful golden light.  Another pattern was the mist that would rise on the water shortly after sunrise, every morning.  I found this knowledge very helpful when planning my photo outings.

Every morning I would walk along the lake with my 2 Cairn Terriers.  They were always eager companions, and we had a lot of fun.  I always had a camera with me, and they were very patient when we stopped for a picture.

Silver Lake Sunrise

The photo above was just after sunrise, and except for the dogs, I had this scene all to myself.

Silver Lake, Blue Skies

The photo above was taken on one of my many walks along the lake.  This one was taken mid-morning, an hour or so after sunrise.  In addition to the beautiful scenery, fishermen were out on the lake, adding an interesting element.

Stormy Skies, Silver Lake

The scene above shows how the trees turned into their Fall Colors.  There is also an early Eastern Sierra snow storm brewing.

Getting to know this small piece of the Eastern Sierra allowed me to begin to understand what a wonderful place it is.  Although I had always thought I knew that, I really paid more attention to the details this time.  Maybe it was because I had enough time and wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere.  I was already there!  When I was out on my walks, I would really try to stop and take it all in, trying to live in the moment.

As for cameras, I did mention that I always had one with me.  I brought 5 cameras with me, and it really didn’t matter which one I used for my daily walks.  Sometimes I would bring my Canon 60D, other times it would be my 10 + year old Sony F707.  It wasn’t about the camera, and I really didn’t care if I had 16 mega-pixels available or just 5.  My intent was to simply capture the moment, and if I was lucky, maybe even a little of the emotion that I felt.

My hope in sharing this with you is to get you to slow down, take it in (wherever you may be), and live the moment.  If you have a camera with you, use it.  Try to capture the feelings you have for that special place and if you’re lucky, others with feel it too when you share your images with them.

That’s it for now.  If you’d like, share that special place with us here.  Tell us why it was special and what you were feeling when you tried to capture that moment.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!