4 Tips for Chasing the Best Light in Landscape Photography

The game of landscape photography is 90% the quality of light. This is the most crucial and uncontrollable factor in your shooting. Here are some tips to get the most out of it.

Landscape photography is definitely not just about the location or landmark seen in the photo. Even the most beautiful places and natural wonders lose some appeal when photographed in terrible lighting conditions. That’s why more than just planning and finding ways to be in a certain place, it’s important to do as much as possible with good light. There are many factors surrounding good lighting such as the weather, the direction and of course the time of day and planning your shot should always take these into account in order to achieve satisfactory images. Along with all the logistical issues, here are four tips to consider that will increase your chances of catching breathtaking scenery in incredible light.

1. Aim for transitions

It’s nothing new to photographers that the best light often occurs around the transitions between night and day. This is why most photographers often prefer to shoot around sunrise and sunset, but why is this so? Sunrise and sunset are the two most dynamic phenomena of each day. During these, the light coming from the sun changes quality almost every minute, and each stage of this sequence provides a unique character of illumination both in the sky and on the ground. These lighting transitions bring together all the different characteristics of light that can complement the character of the landscape. Being able to shoot at that particular moment means being able to capture the different lighting variations and choose the one that you can consider the best.

2. Start early and finish late

Although landscape photography often feels like an activity of total freedom, it really helps to respect the time. Following the first tip mentioned above, it is absolutely rewarding to be early for sunrise or sunset and stay a little longer after. Even though the most drastic transition and dynamic light changes occur during the 20 minutes around sunrise and sunset, the light continues to change even after that and there is certainly a lot more that can happen. during this period which could give some value.

Being early for sunrise or sunset allows you to spot the location for the best possible composition for the most crucial shot of the day. At the same time, it can give you an idea of ​​how the light will behave and change right in front of you and kind of allow you to prepare yourself by deciding how you will interpret the landscape and what exposure techniques you can use. Besides the fact that you can already start shooting during this grace period that you have granted yourself, it may also be time to shake off any anxiety, fatigue or over-excitement that may be distracting you during filming.

3. Anticipate the most important moments

For any type of photography that deals with an environment that has not been artificial or fully controlled, anticipation is the most important skill. While this is mostly practiced in genres such as weddings, events, photojournalism, and documentary, it undoubtedly applies to landscape photography as well, and being able to do it pays off quite well. Landscape photography deals with the interplay of environment and ever-changing light. Certain environmental conditions are advantageous for those looking to photograph dramatic and dynamic light, particularly if set to a particular mood or feel.

Although much of the environment may ultimately be unpredictable, there are certain factors to consider that can give clues as to how the light will change and how it will affect the landscape. On the one hand, the general weather conditions and the abundance of clouds are the first and most obvious clue as to whether there will be anything exciting to look forward to over time. Related to this, the direction of the wind and the speed at which the clouds are moving will also give clues to how drastically lighting conditions can change.

The direction you are facing and the path of the sun are also very important factors to consider. With little experience in landscape photography, it should be obvious that facing exactly opposite where the sun is setting or rising will give you the least chance of dynamic lighting. Shooting sunlit landscapes from the side at sunrise or sunset can result in great heightened depth, especially if there are multiple layers of visual elements between the camera and the background. With or without anything dynamic in the sky, the strong, vibrant sunlight will be enough to turn the location into something impactful. Finally, shooting towards the direction the sun is setting or rising (given there is enough cloud clearance for light to enter) can, of course, produce very dynamic lighting. The state of the sky largely determines this, as too many clouds will obstruct the light and too few will not have enough clouds to illuminate. Skies with 40-60% cloud cover can produce some of the most dynamic sunsets and sunrises. It is also important to predict if there will be any partial obstructions to sunlight which can help produce attractive sunburns in the process.

4. Enjoy the moment

Whether you succeed in capturing the image you imagined for this day and for this place, always set aside time (and consciousness) to simply enjoy what is happening in front of you with your own eyes. Of course, you will feel much better if you manage to get the picture you imagined, but even if you don’t, take the opportunity to process it yourself. One of the benefits of this obviously is being able to experience a pleasurable environmental phenomenon, but being able to witness it yourself, especially when you failed to take the picture, can be useful because the experience and personal account of it in your own memory can help. you identify mistakes and areas for improvement later in the process and prepare for the next possible instance of shooting something similar.

The video below shows the process of capturing the Mayon Volcano sunrise photos above, but more importantly, it documents the thrill of being able to witness such a pleasant light transition.

As a landscape photographer, in addition to your personal style and artistic vision, it is important to be able to develop a certain state of awareness of the natural environment and light. It not only adds to your experience and ability to adapt to changing light, but more importantly increases your appreciation for all things governed by nature.

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