In landscape photography there are two times in the day that are the best times to head out and shoot. They are what photographers call the golden hours. The best time in the morning is to shot a half hour or hour before and after sunrise. In the afternoon it would be a half hour or hour before and after the sunset. The reason for that is because when the sun is lower on the horizon it creates shadows and different textures on the scenes that we are shooting. If you were to go out at noon when the sun is at its highest you won’t see a lot of shadows and the scene could be washed out meaning the colors are muted. One of my favorite times to shoot is called the “Blue Hour” which happens just before the sunrises or after the sun sets. It creates a beautiful blue hue to your images.
The images above are a great example of why shooting in the early morning hours when the sun is low in the horizon creates more visually interesting images. If the sun was higher in the sky you won’t have the beams of light coming threw the trees in both the images. The early morning ground fog also adds to the mood of the images.
Due to the time of day that you are shooting landscapes you will always need to have your camera on a tripod. Having your camera on a tripod will ensure that you don’t have blurry images, as most of the time you’ll have a slower shutter speed as the available light goes away. There are a couple of things that you need to do when having your camera on a tripod to make sure that it doesn’t produce blurry images. The first thing is if you have image stabilizing on your lens is to turn that off. The next thing is lock your mirrors. This will prevent the mirror from moving and therefore prevent any shaking which can cause blurry images. You should also have a cable release to trigger the shutter without you having to press the shutter button which can also cause blurry images.
Slow Shutters help to create motion in your photos. Taking a picture of moving water with cause a silky effect and taking one of the clouds will cause a softening effect. Both of these effects can be taking later in the day with a Neutral Density filter. It will darken your shot enough so that you can use a slower shutter.
You should rarely place the horizon line in the center of your image. Placing the horizon line in the upper or lower part of the photograph creates a strong composition and more vision interest in the image. If you look at all the top landscape photographers like Ansel Adams, most of their images have the horizon line in the upper or lower part of the image. Also look for a different perspective then everyone else, try and not shot at eye level. Getting lower down or higher up will great a different and unique perspective.
Being patient in landscape photography is a must. Waiting for the right lighting and weather conditions can make or break your image. If you shoot the shot in midday your image will look flat and washed out but if you wait till the golden hour you will have beautiful textures and shadows in your image which makes it more a three-dimensional image instead of two dimensional which is what the camera photographs in. While some of us may not like getting up before the sun rises, it is well worth it. There are many different elements that can be captured before and about an hour after the sun comes up. Fog, hoarfrost, glass like water(as there is usually no wind that early in the morning) are but a few. If you wait till the sun has been up for a while you’ll likely miss out on the fog and hoar frost because the sun will burn of the fog and the hoar frost will melt. While you won’t get the fog or hoar frost during the sunsets or twilight you will get glass like water and will be able to get some amazing reflections.
The shot above was taken on the 3rd day of hoar frost and fog that we had in Winnipeg. On both the 1st and 2nd day the frost and fog was gone by the time the sunset. As I wasn’t able to make it out in the morning to shot I was happy to see that late in the afternoon it was even foggier then before and the hoar frost was still there. The fog and the hoar frost add two unique elements to the shot which would have otherwise been just a shot of the train tracks.
In landscape photography it defiantly pays to get up early and stay up late!