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Landscape Photography Day Or Night

There’s no denying that landscape photography is one of the most relaxed and contemplative forms of our craft. Nothing beats standing before a snow-capped mountain range or an expansive valley gently cupping a crystal-clear lake. I believe there’s something very primal about being drawn into a beautiful landscape scene. Whether we see it in person or through viewing it in an artistic medium, it calls us to step closer. Of course, capturing those moments in person adds a whole new layer of connectivity with nature and the world we live upon. Is that primal connection a call back to our early days of hunting and gathering? Or perhaps it stems from our need to survey, claim, and master new horizons. Regardless of the motivation, setting out with your camera to frame and document a gorgeous landscape is reason enough to start today.

Landscape photography is a much-loved genre with solid ties to the generations of landscape painters faithfully capturing scenic vistas on canvas. Landscape scenes can evoke an emotional response from sheer delight to breathtaking awe. Capturing landscapes in photography is a genre that anyone can enjoy. With the right gear, approach, and a little knowledge, it’s also a style that anyone can master. But when are the best times to capture landscape images? I would answer that any time is an excellent time to have a camera in your hand. However, there are certain times of the day when landscapes become magical. Knowing how to work with lighting and environmental moments will turn your landscape photos from good to outstanding. 


The Early Bird Catches The Sunrise

Speaking of magical moments, it’s no surprise that many landscape photographers rise before dawn to make the cold and dark journey to their destination of choice. By getting up well before the sun and being ready to capture the sunrise, your chances of getting the right light are elevated significantly. It’s also essential to research the night before to know the weather forecast. Search for the expected cloud cover, chance of fog, tidal movements, and the exact time and location of the sun breaking the horizon line. Plenty of websites and even smartphone apps supply all this information specifically for this pursuit. Photopills and The Photographer’s Ephemeris are excellent apps for this genre. 

 

Golden and Blue Hours

Landscape photographers often talk about the quality of light during Golden Hour and Blue Hour. It’s important to understand these terms, what they refer to, and how to make the most of them. In the morning, Blue Hour occurs during the hour or so before the sun peaks over the horizon. A deep blue hue fills the sky, bathing the land in colder light. It creates a soft colour palette and softer shadows. Golden Hour quickly follows Blue Hour once the sun crests the horizon. As the name implies, the clear sky is filled with a strong golden light that baths the scene in warmth and long, deep shadows. Golden hour is caused by the low angle of the sun passing light through the particle-rich atmospheric layer of the earth. It’s a prime time to capture stunning landscape shots.

At the other end of the day, Golden Hour and Blue Hour are reversed as the sun sets. In the hour or so before the sun blinks out below the horizon, Golden Hour is at its peak. Golden light dances across the top of mountains while the valleys below fall into shadow. Trees and rock formations cast long shadows while clouds turn from white to pink and finally orange. Blue Hour follows and slowly turns the land to cooler shades. As the evening progresses, the blue light turns to indigo before settling into the inky blackness of night. You can even hang around longer to capture some long exposure or astrophotography images as the stars brighten a clear sky.

 

Practical Gear For Landscape Photography

The other reason I recommend checking the weather forecast, is to ensure you pack and dress for the conditions. There’s nothing worse than being out on a shoot and feeling miserable due to the cold, damp or heat of the day. Depending on the time of year, the transition of daylight, golden hour, blue hour, and night also brings a fast drop in temperature. Gloves, beanies, and warm layers are essential. As is the need for good quality walking shoes - the best landscape spots demand some walking through bush or beach. If you’re dedicated to the process, I recommend a torch or headlamp to ensure safe travel. You also need to see what you’re doing in the dark. Many landscape photographers carry a lightweight camping chair for optimal comfort. 

 

Best Gear And Settings For Landscape Shots

The beauty of landscape photography is that you can shoot it with any camera and lens available to you. However, I recommend a wide-angle prime lens up to 24mm full frame equivalent for best results. Wide-angle lenses capture more of the scene depending on the vista and your vantage point. As for camera settings, depending on the quality of light, I recommend shooting between F8 and F16 to ensure the entire landscape is in focus. Given the lower light levels during blue hour, a slower shutter speed is necessary to give the image sensor time to capture as much light as required. The darker it gets, the slower the shutter speed and the longer the exposure. 

Longer exposure work is why a tripod is also an essential piece of any landscape photography kit. Keeping the camera steady optimises image sharpness and resolution. Even with the camera securely mounted to a tripod, I strongly recommend fitting it with a long camera strap. I have a photography friend (who shall remain nameless) who had a very expensive camera, lens, and tripod topple into an Icelandic ravine. He momentarily took his hands off the camera, and a gust of wind sent his kit into oblivion - never to be recovered. With a long shoulder strap attached, you will always keep one hand tethered to the camera. Just remember that any bump to the camera will result in a blurry image.

 

Landscape Photography Day and Night

As mentioned, there’s never a wrong time to shoot landscape photography. Provided you have the right weather conditions, suitable clothing, and the time to observe the changing light, you, too, will capture fantastic landscape photos. Golden Hour and Blue Hour are popular times to photograph a beach or mountain scene. But you should also get out with your camera in the middle of the day or night. The key to success is to practice landscape work over many outings and develop your knowledge and skill set. Work with varying shutter speeds and apertures to determine what looks best for you. It’s also essential to have patience - take your time and enjoy the process.  

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