I tell my students that if you don’t see shadows in a scene you’re there at the wrong time—come back later or earlier. I won’t even take my camera out of my camera bag if the light isn’t dramatic…that just happens to be my style.
Once I’ve decided where I’m going and what I’m going to photograph—and it does not matter if it’s nature or travel photography—then it’s all about the when. The when is not just about time of day—basically having the sun low in the sky since the drama is at sunrise or sunset—there’s also the time of year. I’ve always avoided most national parks when the tourists visit them (summer to early fall), so I go to the really popular national parks in late fall to early winter; often late November.
Not only do I not go there when the tourists go there I do my photography when they don’t and I use different tools and techniques to create unique dramatic images.
Petrified Sand Dune, Devil’s Garden, Arches National Park; lens: 16mm fisheye
The lighting of the low setting sun here is creating very dramatic backlight and side light on the monoliths and showing nice texture on the petrified sand dune in the foreground. Wanting to go in close to fill the foreground with this large sand dune the 16mm fisheye was the only choice as its angle of coverage is 180 degrees. In addition, I kept the inherent distortion to a minimum by keeping the horizon line as close to the middle of the frame as I could.
This next image of the iconic lower Yosemite Falls taken a very cold winter morning not long after sunrise. I wanted to capture the triangle of ice/snow on the face of the falls….
Lower Yosemite Falls; Lens @ 200mm; on Kodachrome 64 film
Many tourists miss this view because they don’t go out early enough—the ice/snow on the face of the falls melts away rather quickly in direct sun light. I got out there early enough that the sun was off to the side making shadows and creating nice texture in the rock face. Most tourists seeing this later in the day just get pictures of the falls in flat light.
So, my basic rule in nature photography, if you want Great Lighting, is to be there First or be there Last!
’Til next week….don’t forget if you have questions don’t hesitate to ask…
Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com