Most landscape photographers know it: You shoot your best shots during the golden hour. Twice a day, you have roughly one hour to shoot your landscape shots: one that that starts at sunrise, and one that starts an hour before sunset. Last week I explained what the golden (and blue) hour is, but when it is over, what is left to photograph?
As much as I love the sunset, nothing beats the sunrise. When the world wakes up, I feel like the earth is fresh. While at sunset, I can see that the world has lived another day and is tired. When I have a day off, I get up early for landscape photography during the golden hour. And when the golden hour is over, I am not ready to go home. Because when the light is too bright for landscape photography, it is time to sit and watch. I’ll leave my camera on my tripod and enjoy the world around me. And if the weather is good enough and there isn’t anyone around, I might even close my eyes for a minute and listen to the world around me.
Taking pictures when the sun is high in the sky isn’t ideal, sure a polarizing filter helps, and you can shoot with the sun in your back. But it doesn’t match the beauty of the golden hour. The shadows are dark and the bright lights reflect on the dusty landscape, taking away the colour intensity. The result is dull colours and high contrast. And high contrast is great for black and white photography!
When colours are dull or distracting, switching to black and white is a good option. Focus on lines, repetitive patterns, or structure.
Switching to close-up or macro photography is another good option. Look for little grasshoppers, bees, spiders, or even reptiles or mice.
Pay attention to the background when shooting macro. Look for an equal background to eliminate distractions and use a large aperture to isolate the subject from the background.
If the light is too bright for your liking, use a white umbrella to diffuse it. The white product of the umbrella blocks out bright light and reduces the shadows.
In order to capture the little quick animals you need to be patient and fast. For reptiles it is important to stay quiet and move slowly. I enjoy to sit down near some bushes or in the sand, feel the warmth of the sun and listen to the sounds around me. Every moving animal makes sound and eventually will give away their location.
Shooting flowers is a bit easier as they don’t flee away. Keep an eye on the background and look for complementary colours.
If your find yourself in a civilized area, an option is to focus on little details of the place you visit, like part of a bench, billboard, or a boat in the docks.
Another option is to go indoors. Maybe there is a castle, old farm, little shed, an interesting house or library that you can capture. If there are many windows you can play with the shadows and shoot towards the sun. If there is no sunlight, like in a church, getting enough light is a challenge!
Going indoors is not your only solution for escaping the harsh sunlight. Staying in the shadows might be an option, but what about going beneath the surface? If you are lucky enough to live near water where you can snorkel (and you own a under water camera), you could go for a refreshing dive and continue photographing under water. You need a bright sun for increased visibility under water as water blocks quite some light.
If you not a morning person, and you prefer the catch the golden hour in the afternoon, there is nothing left when the golden hour is over but the blue hour and darkness. Both are great for photography!
Thank you for reading and let me know in the comments: Do you prefer the sunrise or sunset? And what do you shoot when the light isn’t ideal?