As landscape photographers one of the things we often find ourselves obsessed about is chasing the light. And while this mindset can allow us to create some of the most amazing images it can also become a crutch limiting both our creativity and the images we images we produce.
Learning to appreciate the subtle transitions in texture as the light moves across the landscape not only not only allows us to better enjoy our time spent in the vast outdoors but also nurture greater opportunities to express ourselves more creatively.
Your Expectations can also create limitations
When I first began my journey as a landscape photographer, I was obsessed with creating images only when there was a burning sunrise or sunset. I would constantly check my weather apps daily hoping for conditions that would show promise of amazing colour and perfect clouds. And although every now and then I was blessed with the perfect conditions to make an amazing image I was often met with utter failure in less than ideal conditions forced to walk away unable to create the image I had hoped.
The expectation of ‘the perfect light’, can greatly limit our opportunities in the field
As a landscape photographer the expectation of, 'the perfect light' can create two possibilities; one you either head out to your location hoping for the perfect conditions only to be disheartened when the light doesn't take shape as you'd hoped or two, consult your 'trusty' weather app and if it doesn't forecast the conditions you hope for you stay indoors and watch TV. If you're thinking that option two seems the more practical approach the truth is neither mindset will help you become a better photographer. For myself, the expectation of, 'the perfect light' has been something which as all too often served as a disappointment limited my creativity and a landscape photographer and ultimately in the images I created.
When we commit our landscape photography to shooting in, ‘the perfect light’, we not only limit our vast opportunities to become more versatile photographers but also to shorten the time spent in the field experiencing the landscapes to find and refine our compositions.
Get out early & stay out late
If you're the type of landscape photographer who likes to shoot 15 minutes before and after sunrise or sunset, I urge you to consider shooting a bit longer. Try getting to your location a couple of hours earlier to find a composition you really like and continue shooting until the light has faded.
By doing this you'll not only be able to discover amazing compositions but also gain a better understanding of how the light interacts with the key elements within the landscape. Arriving to the location 10 or 15 minutes before sunrise or sunset is never going to allow you to find compelling compositions to make a great image.
There's never enough time
Any landscape photographer who has a full time job then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. If you fall into that category then you have to ask yourself, "Do I want to create a body of images from several locations?" Or, "Do I want to create a body of work for my portfolio?"
Spending more time in any landscape allows you to better experience the scene as the light moves across the landscape. If you've never experienced it you'd be surprised just how much the light can change within the space of an hour before and sunrise to sunset often creating a soft yet moody atmosphere emphasizing the foreground and mid-ground elements of your composition.
Take the Challenge
Challenge yourself by spending more time in the landscape. I guarantee that you'll not only be able to find that compelling composition to create a stunning image but other compositions to open up opportunities to create other images you otherwise would have walked past.
Try not to fall into the trap of chasing, 'the perfect light'. If the forecast shows less than ideal conditions get out anyway. It doesn't matter if it's several hours before or after sunset, take time to explore the landscape.
How else are you going to find a compelling composition?
When shooting seascapes don't be afraid to take your camera hand held and get close to the waves. Shooting a wide vista? Try using your telephoto lens to pick out areas within the landscape you find interesting. Spend time looking for light and shadow (contrast) within the landscape and don't forget to include a human element in the frame to show scale. Use that 10-Second Timer and get yourself in the shot (you'll need a tripod for this). And when you cant find anything that strikes your interest, look at your feet. Take 100 steps from the point your standing and look down. I guarantee you'll find something to make a great abstract image.
Now get out there and Happy Shooting :)