12/04/2009

The Golden Rule of Landscape Photo



There's a golden rule of landscape photography, and you can follow every tip in this chapter, but without strictly following this rule, you'll never get the results the top pros do.

As a landscape photographer, you can only shoot two times a day

1. dawn
You can shoot about 15 to 30 minutes before sunrise, and then from 30 minutes to an hour (depending on how harsh the light becomes) afterward. The only other time you can shoot is:

(2) dusk 
You can shoot from 15 to 30 minutes before sunset, and up to 30 minutes afterward.

Why only these two times? Because that's the rule.

Okay, there's more to it than that. These are the only times of day when you get the soft, warm light and soft shadows that give professional quality lighting for landscapes.

How stringent is this rule? I'll never forget the time I was doing a Q&A session for professional photographers. The other instructor was legendary National Geographic photographer Joe McNally. A man in the crowd asked Joe, "Can you really only shoot at dawn and dusk?" Joe quietly took his tripod and beat that man to death. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but what Joe said has always stuck with me. He said that today's photo editors (at the big magazines) feel so strongly about this that they won't even consider looking at any of his, or any other photographer's, landscape work if it's not shot at dawn or dusk. He also said that if he takes them a shot and says, "Look, it wasn't taken during those magic hours, but the shot is amazing," they'll still refuse to even look at it.

The point is, professional landscape photographers shoot at those two times of day, and only those two times. If you want pro results, those are the only times you'll be shooting, too.

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