What a goofy question. Really. Well… I get asked that every so often. And of course the answer is… the best time to shoot… is when you have a camera in your hand. Too obvious? OK… here is a better answer. Anytime is a great time… but each time of day is quite different. Let’s forget about the impact of weather at this moment. Of course if you are looking for the classic warmth and softness of the long shadows… then the early morning and the early evening are the times to get out there and shoot. Here are a couple photos to illustrate that look.
OK… so I threw in a spectacular morning sunrise shot. Of course one would have to move around a little … and wait a few minutes in order to capture those long soft shadows that I mentioned earlier. So… if you wait for another 30 to 60 minutes, you will indeed have the opportunity to capture that golden glow along with those soft shadows. Like this shot below.
Here is another look at those long shadows.
Now let’s move the clock a tad… to full sun. Now… here is where you the photographer can begin to have a real impact on the look of the scene. The sun is up… harsh shadows abound. Glare is everywhere. What is a photographer to do? Well… one thing that you shouldn’t do is avoid the strong light… like the plague! You have to embrace what is before you. Stronger compositions with crisp directional light are just waiting for YOU to start designing the scene… making the most out of the shadows and the too hot to stare at it sun ball in the the above! Here are a few photos that I have taken during the harsh realities of hard piercing light.
Wow it is bright out there! And actually as I look at the photo now… the shadows are almost nonexistent because the Mr. Sun is directly above. So… let’s choose another one to illustrate my point.
OK… that is easier to understand. Harsh light. Santa Fe. Red hat. It works for me. Here are a few more.
Both of these photos… the woman in the red hat and this photo of the red motorcycle in Marseille, France are quite similar… as far as a composition and use of light goes. Both use hard directional light to “focus” the viewer’s eye on the subject. Like a laser beam they highlight the central reason to click the shutter…. the woman…. and the motorcycle.
The photo above is an example of knowing where to stand and having a basic understanding of what the sun does. Especially in a city… if it is sunny on one side of the street then on the opposite side it will be in shadow. Duh. Knowing this little bit of fascinating trivia enabled me to “frame” the subject… in this case the elderly woman gingerly ascending the steps.
Understanding where the sun is and what it can do and won’t do allowed me to pick this time of day to shoot this tiny street. I love this shot. Sorry… I know I shot it but I really think… personally… that it became more than a tiny street… for me… because of the harsh light… and the shadows… that it became an abstract painting of shapes. And by the way… I also changed it to a black and white just for kicks and it holds up well as a b/w! Love when that happens!
And here is the last photo I will show to help illustrate the beauty of mid-day shooting. Shot in a Pueblo Banco in Southern Spain… I just love the shadow cast by the building that you don’t see. It broke up that overpowering slab of white plaster that was facing me. Remember… go with the flow… embrace what nature presents you. Manipulate the abstraction of harsh shadows into a dramatic composition. Also remember that if something is not working and the sun is just too too much… the thing to do is …go to a bar and get a drink… no… run for the shade!! There you will find another world to shoot. One without those nasty harsh shadows. And no glare. And less heat. Here are a couple to illustrate what I mean by “run into the shade”.
Look Mom… no shadows! Well… if they do exist they are so so soft that they might as well not exist. This was shot in Tucson, Arizona. I love Tucson. The colors. The shapes. But… heh… it gets almost as hot and bright as Palm Springs! So… when the sweat was running into my eyes and stinging them… I looked for things to shoot inside the shade. Here is another one.
And… since time marches on and Mickey’s hands are swiftly changing… it is time to pull out the tripod for some night time shooting. All together different… as far as light goes… but everything else is the same… a simple composition trumps everything! And… as many of you know… 20 minutes after the sun goes down is one of the best times to shoot “at night”. The reason is simple… a long exposure will prove that there is plenty of light left after the sun dips below the horizon. But after about 40 minutes… you will indeed be shooting at night and the beautiful blue of the sky will be gone … until tomorrow. First the 20 minute after… photo.
What can one say? Long exposure… great reflections… terrific location ( the Desert Riviera Hotel in Palm Springs ). See the blue in the sky? In 20 more minutes it would have been black as all get out. Kinda like the photo below.
I love anything by the water… I guess because I know that a reflection will probably enhance the photo. In this case… Italy. So… there you have it. There is no “best time” to shoot… there is only your willingness to embrace what the sun or lack of sun gives you. Hope this will encourage you to get out there and shoot more. It is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things I have ever done in my life. Night or day.
Until next time… happy trails!