Light is, of course, equally important whatever time of day it is and so now I'll take a look at other types of light that are encountered in landscape photography and how to make the most of them.
I guess we all like warm sunny days with bright blue skies and fair weather cumulus clouds. It's not necessarily the best weather for landscape photography, certainly not for really dramatic pictures, but these are undeniably the most pleasant conditions to be outside and therefore understandably popular. And as far as photography goes it is a great time for picture postcard views.Learn Landscape Photography
But even on a day like this, when it may seem easy to get good pictures, there are things to take into account and careful thought is required if we are to make the most of the situation. Season and time of day are quite crucial.Learn Landscape Photography
If you plan your photography for early or late in the day, shadows become longer and lighter, allowing more detail to be retained and creating better modelling where they are cast across the land. The light is softer, more gentle and warmer in tone, with an almost indefinable quality of fresh crispness that really brings the scene to life.Learn Landscape Photography
Nice as they are, thankfully not all days are like this. The best weather for landscape photography is often when it is unsettled and changeable with heavy showers interspersed with sunshine. There's the constant threat of getting soaked and, as these conditions are often brought to us by courtesy of a stiff north-westerly, it can be pretty cold from autumn through to spring. Sometimes, it is true, you do have to suffer for your art!Learn Landscape Photography
The rewards are often spectacular, with dark brooding clouds dominating the sky, ominous and threatening. Foreground objects caught by a shaft of piercing sunlight seem to almost leap out of the scene against this sombre, menacing backdrop. The contrast of two different types of light - light against light, to borrow a phrase from Galen Rowell – is nothing short of amazing. These magic moments rarely last for long. All too often you see it just as the rampaging clouds are about to close that small window of opportunity and extinguish the sun, seemingly forever.
There are days when the cloud cover is complete, with little or no chance of the sun appearing. In "Better Landscape Photography" I recommended these conditions for more intimate landscapes in woodland, etc., where the sky could be excluded and the soft light used to reveal fine detail closer to the camera. However, if the cloud is dark enough to allow some contrast and tone in the sky, you can still take open views.
Mood, if it exists, is invariably one of joyful exuberance; “All things bright and beautiful” springs to mind. Of course, you can always choose compositions that exclude the sky if that monotonous uniform blue is posing a problem, just the same as you can when grey sky threatens to kill the image. Learn Landscape Photography
The practical effect is that we need to be even more aware of the effects of flare than at either end of the day. When the sun is out of frame a lens hood, of course, is a good idea but most are not as effective as they might be, particularly if designed for a zoom lens. Such hoods have to be designed not to cause vignetting when the lens is set to its shortest focal length, therefore when a longer focal length is selected the sun could be outside the field of view but not shielded from striking the front element by the hood. The remedy is to use your hand or a sheet of card to shield the lens more effectively, but carefully check the viewfinder or screen to ensure it doesn't encroach upon the image.Learn Landscape Photography
Also, if your lens is fitted with a UV or protector filter it is wise to remove it before shooting as these are often instrumental in causing flare, particularly if dirty. It is useful to employ these measures against flare for sunrises and sunsets too, as the sun is often still pretty intense despite the natural filtering action of the atmosphere.
Talking of sunsets, that brings us almost full circle to where we started. Almost, but not quite, because although similar light and conditions to sunrise are often experienced there are subtle differences. You are more likely to get mist at sunrise as the sun rapidly warms the Earth and its atmosphere, causing moisture to condense. Even on clear days there is a greater likelihood of a hazy sunset, caused by the build up of pollution throughout the day. This will often result in richer, stronger and more vibrant colours rather than the paler, pastel tones that are often associated with dawn.Learn Landscape Photography
You may wonder what that has to do with photography. The answer is everything, because landscape photography relies upon mood, atmosphere and light. Without light there would be no photography. Without an emotional response to the light and the ambience it creates we cannot be successful landscape photographers. It starts and ends with light.Learn Landscape Photography
It's all about light.
More of John's superb Landscape Photographs and his advice are available in his new book - The Light Fantastic.
Some of his images are displayed in the Gallery of Better Photographs and in his gallery at www.johnperrimentphotography.com
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