The Best Time to Shoot a Landscape Photograph
When is the best time to shoot a landscape photograph? Timing is a very important aspect of landscape photography. It determines what light is falling on a scene, conveying mood, ambiance and atmosphere. Photographs of the same scene taken at different times of the day, under different lighting conditions, will look completely different and will elicit totally different emotional responses.
The beauty of landscape photography is in its variety – even one viewpoint can provide infinite possibilities, depending on the weather, time of day, and season. Usually, you have a limited choice in this respect; few people can afford the time to make several visits to a location in order to capture the right conditions. Nevertheless, within the constraints, you should anticipate the appearance of a scene at different times, and try to work to the preferred one. As a general rule, sunrise and sunset are the best times. Then, a wide variety of lighting conditions are available for one or two hours, giving warm colors and low-angled lighting that shows up textures and shadows.
Very often people looking at my pictures say, ‘You must have had to wait a long time to get that cloud just right (or that shadow, or the light).’ As a matter of fact, I almost never wait, that is, unless I can see that the thing will be right in a few minutes. But if I must wait an hour for the shadow to move, or the light to change, or the cow to graze in the other direction, then I put up my camera and go on, knowing that I am likely to find three subjects just as good in the same hour. – Edward Weston
After a 3-hour hike up the back of Mt. Sinai in Egypt, I captured this sunrise from the mountain. © Gary Nugent.
The worst time to take landscape photographs is around midday when the Sun is high in the sky. The flat lighting, particularly in the tropics, is often hard to cope with adequately, and is usually more satisfactory with inherently strong shapes, tones and colors. Shadows are almost non-existent. It’s great for holiday snaps but photographs taken under this light rarely convey the ambiance of a scene. They do provide a pictorial record – here’s what he place looked like – rather than giving the essence of the place – here’s what the place feels like; it has a kind of magical, mystical quality and so on.
Dull, overcast skies are an even more severe problem. Even though the diffuse lighting gives accurate color rendition to everything, the quality of light is formless (i.e. lacks direction), and the contrast between sky and land is too high to record both at a proper exposure. A graduated filter can be used to compensate for this extreme contrast.
Generally, landscape photographs benefit from soft light, particularly that around dawn and dusk when there’s a pronounced golden quality to the light which is flattering to almost any scene. You can shoot directly into the light for sunrises and sunsets or off at an angle for a scene that’s softly lit by the low Sun.
Isolated trees on a slope overlooking Osooyus, in Canada. Shot from below the base of the trees to take the eye up the tree into the sky, It also has some fluffy clouds for added interest. © Gary Nugent
On location, natural light is both your best friend and worst enemy and can make the difference between an atmospheric or lifeless photograph.
Skies are important in landscapes as well. While you can use a polarizing filter to enhance blue skies or a graduated filter to darken dull and flat-looking skies, the most effective skies are usually natural blue ones, preferably with a few fluffy white clouds or some thin, but dramatic, clouds to add some interest.
If the sky is white and overcast, your chances of getting a good picture are seriously curtailed. On a related point, you should always make sure that the horizon is flat – it’s an easy detail to overlook as you concentrate on other aspects of the scene – and that it’s not dead in the middle of the picture. Use the Rule of Thirds and offset it so that there’s two-thirds landscape / one-third sky or two-thirds sky / one-third landscape. Having more sky than landscape will convey a feeling of openness. (On a side note, sloping horizons can be corrected later in Photoshop if you have that facility).
If you’d like to predict local Sun rise and set times so you can make the most of the golden hours (or Moon rise and set times if yo want to include the Moon in your photos), my LunarPhase Lite or LunarPhase Pro software will provide this information along with diagrams and compass directions for the Sun and Moon as well as plenty of other information.
Best Time To Shoot A Landscape Videos:
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