Tag Archives: sunset

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!

Capturing the Moment and the Mood

Hopefully this won’t get too deep or sappy!  I was thinking about what makes a good photo.  There are a lot of pretty pictures out there, but some just seem to reach out a grab you.  Why?

To anyone concerned with making more than snapshots (and that’s ok too), this is a tough question.  I post a lot of images on-line.  Some seem to take off, and people like them, share them, etc….  This is actually easy to see on websites like Facebook and Google +.

I can also get a  good idea on another site called ViewBug.  In fact, ViewBug is very active with people sharing all kinds of images and it has contests.  Flickr is another site I post on, but it seems to be fairly slow there lately.

While I don’t have a concrete answer to why one image is more popular or appealing than another, I do have idea.  Mood.  When one of my images is more popular than another, I thinks it’s because it goes beyond just being a pretty picture and evokes a certain mood, or feeling.

Here’s an example:
The Cabin

I’ve  called this one “Warm and Cozy”, and it’s done quite well on the various websites.  There really is something warm and cozy about this shot.  That little cabin in front of a pond with the warm inviting lights shining.  Kind of makes you want to go in, sit in front of a fire and have a cup of hot cocoa.

How do I know this image works compared to some of my others?   It was my most popular post on Facebook, got a lot of attention on Google +, has done very well on ViewBug, and made a good showing on Flickr.

Getting it right isn’t easy (and who’s to say what’s right anyway).  Its more a matter of connecting with your intended audience.  There are plenty of technically perfect photos out there that suck.  Why?  Usually because they are boring,  don’t draw you in, or lack an emotional connection/mood.

Other than making family memories or snapshots, I try to think more about the “why”  when I’m making a particular image.  What is it about the scene in front of me that is compelling or what is it that makes me want to press that shutter, and share it?  Sorry, its starting to get deep!

In an attempt to illustrate this, here’s a more recent image:
Imperial Beach Pier, Sunset

I made this one on Superbowl Sunday, late in the afternoon on the beach next to the Imperial Beach Pier.  The sun was setting, and the light was starting to fade.  While the sunset itself was just ok, I noticed the cloud formations.  This was the edge of a small storm front that was moving in.  The tide was out, and the clouds were reflecting in the wet sand, almost like a mirror.  I took a lot of shots moving from one side of the pier to the other, trying to capture what I was feeling.  That feeling was one of amazement and awe!  I was amazed at what a beautiful scene was in front of me, and in awe of the size of it.  The sky seemed to go on forever!

Looking at this shot brings me right back to that day, that moment when I was there standing on the beach.  The equipment I used is unimportant.  It could have been anything from a simple point and shoot to a large view camera.  The more important thing was that I had a camera with me and was able to capture the moment, and the mood.

Hopefully this was helpful.  If nothing else, I’m hoping to get you to take a moment, and think about why you’re going to press that shutter.  Who is your audience and how are going to connect with them?  Did you capture the moment and the mood?

That’s it for now.  Until next time – Happy Shooting!