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The light at dawn and dusk is magical, yet the number of images taken at these times is surprisingly low. It’s tough to get up extra early: After a long day of photography most photographers want to return to the motel, and exposures during these periods are long. Although the light at these times can be subtle, it has great potential. Found below are some tips and information to get you on your way to add dawn and dusk images to your files.
TWO HORIZONS: Whether you shoot at sunrise or sunset, the sky color at the point of the rising or setting sun takes on a gradation of warm tones at the horizon and bleeds into cobalt blue the higher you look. Approximately 20 minutes before the sun rises and 20 minutes after the sun sets, this effect peaks. The tones are riveting and compel the photographer to remain fixated on the glow in the sky. Ironically, it’s this gorgeous glow that makes many photographers overlook the potential of what’s happening directly behind them. At dawn and dusk, the sky opposite the sun takes on a pastel pink color that makes a wonderful backdrop for many subjects. I encourage you to make a mental note to look for and capture it. In essence, there are two horizons to photograph.
PREPARATION: Getting to or from your location will be done in the dark, so make sure you bring a flashlight or headlamp powerful enough to light the way. If you’re with a group of other photographers, I also recommend you bring a small light to illuminate the controls on your camera as a powerful one may wreak havoc on the long exposures of your neighbor if light spills onto their composition. It’s also wise to memorize the position of the controls on your camera so adjustments can be made more efficiently in the dark. Extra batteries will come in handy as the long exposures quickly drain their life. A locking cable release will help ensure sharp images as will a good sturdy tripod. Set your camera to run long exposure noise reduction so the files are clean and noise-free.
REWARDS: Dawn and dusk photography provides the eager photographer with soft light. Worries about shadow and highlight detail don’t exist as all tones blend into a harmonious exposure of evenly-lit subjects. Not only is the light soft, it’s very pastel in tone and it often imparts its color onto the subject, bathing it in a quality of light unobtainable at any other time of day. In addition, dawn and dusk often means little or no wind so the often needed long exposures don’t impose the problem of subject movement. Finally, unless you travel with others, you’ll have the place to yourself, so you can become one with your subject.