As a landscape photographer, I love natural light! That dramatic lighting that comes near the beginning and ending of the day can take a scene that might otherwise be pretty, but uninteresting, and make it a “WOW” moment. We photographers love to be able to capture those fleeting moments in time!
One subject of such interest is a beautiful sunset or sunrise. You know the kind - the kind where the sun, as a big ball of fire, is near the horizon and there are multiple shades of color, such as, orange and red and yellow bouncing off the clouds around it. The nearby landscape is illuminated and shadows are cast, creating interesting lines and giving depth of field to your photograph. I love that time of day! Incorporating the sun, and it’s rays of beaming light, into my scenery is one of my favorite ways to compose a shot.
However, it can become very easy to become so focused on the “light show”, starring the sun, that I forget to look around me! This not only creates a beautiful scene looking into the sunlight, but the scene BEHIND you can be just as dramatic. During this magical time of day when the sun is low in the sky, it’s light will create wonderful colors throughout the sky and the landscape. If you turn around and place the sun to your back, often you will see shades of red to orange to pink to purple reflecting off of the clouds in the sky. Hardscape objects such as rocks and tree trunks - and softer objects such as foliage, will begin to change appearance during this marvelous time. Shadows are also cast and the scene can become very interesting, as the shadows can also help to create perspective and depth of field.
Take for example this shot of the lake and the clouds. I actually had just been shooting the sunset (which was the other direction). The sun that night had been strong and very bright, diffused very little by overlying clouds. However, the clouds adjacent to the sun were reflecting it’s colors beautifully. There were some hills towards the setting sun in the west that then obscured it as it fell lower in the sky. I was just about to pack it up and head in when I turned around to this wonderful scene! The light was still enough to reflect off of the clouds and the colors of the fading light were just inspiring. Of course, the reflections on the water did not hurt either! This attenuating light lasted about five minutes or so. The thing is, when I started shooting earlier that night, this scene was relatively blah and uninteresting and the view actually looking toward the sun was the best.
So, the next time you are out shooting into that grand sunrise or sunset, don’t forget to simply turn around and look at the scene behind you. It may be just as - if not more - dramatic than the view of the sunrise or sunset. This seems so basic, but it can be easy to become so focused in one direction that you may miss the best part!
Until next time...Happy Shooting!