Sunday, April 10, 2011

Photo Tip #13 - Scope it out

I'm always looking for the exact right kind of lighting and angles when photographing landscapes. Doing your homework ahead of time will give you more chances to capture a good shot. What is the homework? Sometimes it's scoping out your shots ahead of time. Let me explain.

I like to photograph into the sun, at sunrise or sunset. I also like to capture big, full moon shots. The sun and moon both rise and set at different angles throughout the year, so good preparation will help you be in the right place for the best shot.

I'll never forget the time when I was going to photograph the San Diego skyline at sunrise and blew the shot. I was positioned at one of my favorite spots...Island Prime Restaurant, off Harbor Drive by the airport. It'a a beautiful view, and I had captured an awesome full moon there one evening. I got there early one morning before the sun came up, set up my gear, and waited for the sunrise moment. I was so disappointed to find out my angle was all wrong! I really needed to be on Coronado Island looking across the bay to catch the sun rise over the office buildings of downtown San Diego. At different times of the year, Island prime is a great location for a sunrise like that. Unfortunately, I didn't do my homework.

The good news is, I'm very patient when it comes to getting a good shot. I used my blown sunrise shot at Island Prime as my homework for the next morning. Although I had missed the best light of the morning...right when the sun was coming up...I went over to Coronado Island to scope out my location for the next morning. It paid off with a good shot. My miss the day before was a win the next day! There's a sermon in there somewhere. :) There are other times when the sun rising over the Coronado bridge is the good shot. It varies throughout the year.

So...get out there and do some homework. Check for good angles. Check for partly cloudy forecasts. Check for sunrise and sunset times. Check when the moon rises and sets. Check where the best flowers are, or other interesting things that might make good foregrounds in your landscapes. A few days before there is a full moon, go out and get your angles set up so when the full moon comes, you'll be in the exact right place. And most of all, don't get discouraged when everything doesn't line up for the perfect clouds...too windy...etc. Sometimes that happens. There will always be more good days ahead!

Yes, sometimes you have to still do homework. Leveraging it to your advantage will help you capture better photos! Have fun!


Steve Jolly said...

Hey Darrel,

Have you used the Photographer's Ephemeris. It's a free download for your computer... On the iphone it costs a bit.

It tells the time and of sunrise/set and moon rise/set on any given day as well as the location. You can even move the pin around on the map and put it right where you plan on shooting from to see if it's the right place.

Thanks for all your tips!

Darrel Larson said...

I haven't used that one, but I'll try it out now. I have a different program for that called darkness. Yours sounds a little more beefed up. Thanks Steve!