Mastering Low Light For Outdoor Scenics

When it comes to capturing outdoor landscapes, most photographers shoot from sunrise to an hour or so after
low light photography

From the time the sun crests the horizon to the last visible rays dip below, the quality of light is in constant flux. The gorgeous color it provides when it's close to the horizon is unrivaled and revered by most photographers of just about any subject. Mid-day light is most often avoided when it comes to subjects that are outdoors as it's harsh, contrasty and very blue which robs subjects of their saturation.

When it comes to capturing outdoor landscapes, most photographers shoot from sunrise to an hour or so after, and then again from about an hour before sunset to the time the sun drops below the horizon. While this is to be commended and modeled, the potential to make beautifully lit landscapes can be vastly expanded by getting out a half hour earlier and staying out a half hour later. Dawn and dusk images, especially when the sky takes on an alpenglow, can be extremely dramatic.

low light photography

To capture these types of images, there are certain concessions you'll need to make in addition to specific techniques you'll need to adopt. There is one guarantee - if you're not there at the time the drama unfolds, you won't get the photo. With this in mind, the first and most basic concession is getting up earlier and staying out later. While it sounds fundamental, many photographers aren't willing to make the sacrifice. To this, I say, fantastic in that there will be fewer in the area which gives me more freedom to move and get the shot. But to this end, if you're still reading this, your interest is high so I dearly hope to see you next to me.

The weather will be colder at these times of day, so be prepared and dress appropriately. If the light is amazing, you tend to forget about the cold, but for those days where Mother Nature doesn't do her thing, it's brisk while you wait for it to happen. If it's summer and it's humid, it's the time of day when bugs enjoy your being there so make sure to bring repellent or protective clothing. If you enjoy comfort, a collapsible chair will keep you content and dry if the ground is wet.

long exposure

Exposures will be long and necessitate the use of a tripod. While stabilization is built into many lenses and camera bodies, there's no way it can compensate for exposures in the one second and longer range. An added benefit of using a tripod is it helps you fine tune your composition and study the viewfinder with more scrutiny. I strongly encourage you to use a cable release or the self-timer to lessen the chance to create camera shake when you press the shutter. Even though the camera is on a tripod, the simple action of pushing the shutter can introduce movement. A cable release is more efficient as you don't need to wait for the timer to count down each exposure. A graduated neutral density filter will help darken the dawn or dusk sky. This is necessary because it may be significantly brighter than your much darker foreground.

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