It feels good when onlookers of your images say, “Wow, I wish I’d have thought of that.” It complements your creativity and desire to be unique. While most “creative” techniques have been around for a while, for some reason, few photographers incorporate them into their workflow. Tricks like using slow shutter speeds while you pan a moving subject artistically nets an image that depicts motion. Another that results in the same effect is to deliberately move the camera horizontally or vertically when a slow shutter is engaged.
Additionally, if you zoom the lens during a two-second exposure, the result can be very dramatic. All are easy to put into effect but are seldomly utilized. An additional way to separate your images from other photographer’s photos involves the time of day. Arrive at your scenic location 20 to 30 minutes before sunrise and/or after sunset.
The light that fills the sky at dawn and dusk is magical, yet the number of images taken at these times is far less than those when the sun directly lights the landscape. There are a number of logical reasons. For one, it’s tougher to get up extra early and there’s a strong desire to get home or back to the motel after a long day of shooting. Another is the fact that the light at these times is subtle and its potential is overlooked by too many photographers. Exposure times are long and many don’t want to be bothered. As evidenced, there are drawbacks, but the rewards far exceed them. The potential for outstanding images is high.
Dawn and dusk photography provide the eager photographer soft light. Worries about shadow and highlight exposures don’t exist as all tones blend into a harmonious exposure of evenly lit subjects. Not only is the light soft, but it’s also pastel in tone and bathes all subjects in a quality of light unobtainable at any other time of day. The scene takes on a warm glow that’s bounced from the bright part of the sky. When the conditions perfectly line up, a magenta pink cast is imparted to the whole scene.
In addition, dawn and dusk often mean little or no wind. Given the fact that exposures are long, gentle and delicate subjects such as flowers or fragile grasses don’t show subject movement. Another huge plus is that unless you travel with others, you’ll more than likely have the place to yourself. This allows you to become one with the environment and you can shoot from any vantage point.
Always use a sturdy tripod to ensure a sharp recording of the scene. It’s better to let the shutter stay open longer than to use a higher ISO to simply obtain a faster shutter speed. in regard to exposure, make one for the foreground and one for the sky. Even though the contrast is narrow, to hold the delicate and pastel quality of the warm tones in the sky, it’s better to make two exposures and blend them in Photoshop. You can use HDR software but because the exposures are so close, I simply layer and blend the two images in post-processing.
An option is to use a graduated ND filter if you happen to have one laying around from the film days. In regard to light, the variations are much subtler than a dramatic sunrise or sunset, so train your eye to read these soft pastel colors. Think magenta and pink. When the air is clear and clean, the rendering of color is more enhanced.
To learn more about this subject, join me on a photo safari to Tanzania. Visit www.russburdenphotography.com to get more information.