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Sunrise & Sunset Light

Lesson 30 from: FAST CLASS: Fundamentals of Photography

John Greengo

Sunrise & Sunset Light

Lesson 30 from: FAST CLASS: Fundamentals of Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

30. Sunrise & Sunset Light


Class Trailer

Photographic Characteristics


Camera Types


Shutter System


Shutter Speed Basics


Camera Settings Overview


Camera Settings - Details


Sensor Size: Basics


Focal Length


Lesson Info

Sunrise & Sunset Light

All right, let's talk about sunrise and sunset because photographers are known to shoot at those times, and I have done a fair bit of time in this in this area. Might have might have put in my 10,000 hours here. And so there's a lot going on, and so this actual section actually is a little bit longer than the others. And so obviously shooting at sunrise and sunset is very interesting for a lot of good reasons. There are dramatic changes from minute to minute, and what you might be shooting. One minute is gonna be completely different in five minutes. And so it's fun for me because it's challenging. There's so many different possibilities. Depending on where you are, you get really good colors, and we always like good colors in photographs. For the most part, the low, low range of brightness makes things very easy to deal with the fact that it's not too bright, you get to have the actual son in the photograph, but you can still so show things in the shadows, and there's just so much to ...

shoot. It's not just the sun coming up and down, but the sidelights situation And then what? The sun is illuminating itself. There could be so many different things to work with. There's a lot of disadvantages. Shooting sunrise is very inconvenient for most people. You got to be on location and you've got to be ready to go. And I'm talking a little bit, maybe more, with landscape photography in this particular case here and, uh, campaigns. Okay, I like camping. I like my nice bed, but, you know, I like to be as close to the action is possible. And so I have no problems going out camping. If it puts me right where I want to be, it's definitely unpredictable. And, you know, I really I don't like investing in stocks that I have no idea where they're going. But when you decide to go shoot a sunrise and you wake up at 4 30 in the morning, you are investing in something that you have no idea if it has any return at all. Because I've done my share of early wake ups, lots of effort, and it just didn't play help. And you just got to play the game and you just got to put your time in eventually you'll get your your dio. Uh, but it doesn't always happen. Light levels are a little bit low, which means you gotta bring your tripod with you and things happen really quickly, and I have found that I try to make a plan. This particular photograph comes from the great Sand Dunes if its national Parker still, I think it's the national park in Colorado. I was trying to wonder if it was a preserve area, but I think it's now made it to national park status. And I went out hiking at sunset and it was kind of a cloudy day. Didn't look great, but, hey, I was there to shoot. I'm gonna shoot whatever I can, and I remember sitting around on the dunes for an hour and 1/2. I had nothing to shoot. I felt like it's not gonna do me good to walk around anymore. I'm in right in the right spot. I'm just gonna have to wait for something to happen. And then this colors in the sky started turning on, and it felt like it just crept up on me, and suddenly it's right now and it's like, Okay, I got to find something in the foreground. What's the most interesting thing I could find in the foreground? And, like, this little puff of grass is the only thing I can find in the foreground to shoot. But okay, it'll be the hero in this particular shot. Uh huh. And so it's kind of fun because there's a lot going on, and what you can make of that is totally up to you. You are unlimited in how much success you can have in that moment in time. And there's nothing holding you back in many ways on. And I find that very exhilarating to dio and so obviously know the times. What time you expecting sunrise and sunset? Know where the sun is? Scout the location, if you can. It's the worst thing is trying to go to a sunrise location that you've never been to cause you're getting there in the dark and you're like welcoming park here. What if it's over here, What's over here? And so it's really good if you can get there in the afternoon to shoot sunset or you get there in the afternoon to shoot sunset and sunrise the next morning, I know there's a number of times where I'll go to a location at sunset. And I like you know what? I'm coming straight back at sunrise because I'm gonna get something completely different, and I know my way around, and I could know where the sun is going to be in that particular location. All right, so we will try to get a little nerdy here, and I'm gonna graph some things to show you how ah Light works in many different regards. Because having shot through my fair share of sunrises and sunsets, it's been moments of really, really good shooting. And then Okay, it's not so good now await. Wait, it's getting good again. It's getting good again. And okay, wait. Now, not anymore. Wait, what's going on over here? Oh, it's getting good again. Uh huh. And there's been kind of a pattern to it, and I've been taking a while to try to figure out what's exactly going on. And so it depends on the type of day that you're having. So we're gonna take our example at sunrise. It's the same at sunset, just in reverse. At first you get this blue zone and then it gets kind of gets bad again, and then you get to an area of cloud light. If you have clouds in the right areas of the right place and then at actual sunrise, you'll get your first light. And so there are these three different stages that you will hit upon depending on the lighting conditions. And so let me graph this out for you in a different way here. Okay, so you're gonna go out and photographing and you're shooting sunrise, and it's dark out. So the stars were all out and you want to shoot a mountain? Okay, so you're out there at, oh, dark 30. And you're going to start to notice that there's gonna be a little bit of blue in this guy, a little bit of twilight coming on in the sky ahead of you, and this is kind of this time to start shooting. That's the time for ending all of your star shots in your nighttime shots. And so there's not the best time to shoot quite yet. But as that sun is starting to come up over the horizon, it's gonna really start to illuminate the sky with this beautiful blue. It's one of my favorite blues because there's a nice little transition there. And this is a beautiful blue zone for shooting as a background, especially as a silhouette with trees and mountains and things like that. And this is a great time to be out shooting city shots. We'll see some more examples of blue zone type shots, and so this is a good time to be shooting. Now, as the sun starts to get up a little bit higher, it's going to illuminate the sky and make it a little bit brighter. And it's gonna be awkwardly bright and not look so good unless there are some clouds. Not too many clouds, some clouds, all right, and it needs to be. They need to be positioned such that the sunlight can illuminate the bottom side of those clouds. All right now, you'll rarely ever get twilight and this cloud light in the same morning because they're kind of opposite of each other in the weather conditions. And this is probably when some of the most spectacular photographs will be taken when the sun is still below the horizon. But there illuminating the clouds. One of the things that I did it really think about or I didn't really see as much until I've done this. Enough is that if these clouds are eliminated by a lot of good life, it's not just that the clouds look good. It's that they're illuminating the landscape with light, and they change it into a light. Unlike what we see 99 0.999% of the time, we recognize the landscape, but it's of a different light, and we know that it's a unique and special moment when that happens. Now, as the sun gets up higher and higher, eventually it's gonna reach over the top of the horizon, and your subject's gonna get illuminated. And that's going to be essentially the weakest direct sunlight that that subject receives, which is good because then you're going to be able to see into the shadows, and it's gonna have the lowest contrast levels. And so that first light is a good time to photograph something. If you were wanting direct sunlight on that subject, whether it's a car, a building or a person is those very last or in this case, the 1st 5 minutes of light in some case, and so let's take a look at some of those photos from the different eras of this. So first off, we have twilight. And so we have stars visible in this case. This was one of my favorite shots from Madagascar. I was doing a night shot and live in totally night shot. We're still getting some blue in the western sky. And then as I was doing this 32nd exposure, somebody drove their car down the road and I thought they ruined the photo. And then I saw that how it looked like they're weaving through the trees actually looks really nice and added a nice little lighting effect that I was not anticipating that we'll call it a happy accident. That worked out really well. Now I see a number of photographers call this the blue hour and they're lying to you. It never lasts an hour. When I shoot with this, I might be a little bit picky, but I think the good blue light last for about five minutes. You can kind of push it on the extremes and get it to work for about 1/2 an hour. But when it's really at just the right, the right intensity and the right saturation is really about five minutes where it's gonna look at its very best. And so you do get this fantastic color that I think is really nice. It's great for silhouettes, and so you have to think about what could create a silhouette. So when I was down in the redwoods, I wasn't thinking about silhouettes because it's too crowded, you're not going to get that effect. And one of the nice things is, if it's a bluebirds sunny day, you know you're going to get this. This is something that you can bank money on. If it's clear out, you're going to get a nice blue sky unless I know there's a forest fire or some other sort of dust in the environment. It's something that you can really guarantee. And if they do, make for some very nice, powerful images, and so these work very well with natural things. They work well in cities and with buildings and lights quite well. It is a very brief time, and so you do have to prepared. There's not a lot that you could do in that time. You can't run all over the city getting five different shots and different locations. You're gonna have to pick one location and really work with it. Absolutely Are gonna be needing a tripod on this is gonna be low light stuff these air oftentimes 32nd 10 seconds. At least one second exposures, depending on what aperture you're working with. And I am trying to stay at I s a 100. I want the image quality to be as good as possible, so I'll keep it as low as possible there. And you also need a very open environment. And so if you're dealing with, let's say Yosemite Valley, you've got these big valley walls there. You don't see much sky. It's not. That's not gonna work out there very well at all. Death Valley. Okay, that's a nice, big open environment. So you really have to think Is this gonna work in that type of environment? All right, so we're looking for objects with distinctive shapes. They're going to show up against a skyline. It depends a little bit on where you are on the planet because the sun has different angles that it sets and rises at so around 15 minutes to an hour before sunrise. And if you think you need to be on location 60 minutes before sunrise, calculate what time you actually have to get up in the morning. That should calculate what time you need to go to bed the evening before so that you can at least get up and do that. You will tend to need to under expose these images so they're not gonna have the exposure meter in the middle. It's gonna be over to the minus site, maybe minus one exposure something in that range there the gen generally tend to be a little bit on the darker side photographs, and this is also really good for shooting cityscapes and show you some more examples in charts of shooting cityscapes in this case. And so Monument Valley in the morning, there's no clouds. This is not gonna be a good day for shooting at Monument Valley because it's just pure blue sky. You want some clouds of there. But at this time right now, that blue sky, especially that Grady it works very, very well with those distinctive shapes of the mittens there, as they're known in Morocco, having our distinctive shapes went out for a camel ride out there. I had him take the camel up to the top of the ridge and just stand there for a moment. Great time to be shooting cityscapes here. And part of this has to do with fact that this is illuminated by artificial light thes air tungsten lights, which are orange. And as we'll talk more about when we get to colors orange and blue or kind of a really good friendly combination of colors, there's did you know colors have best friends on, and they work really well together in orange and blue are like best friends when it comes to color, and we have blue skies, we have orange lights, and so we get them in many, many different locations. So it's a combination that works well over and over and over again. So this is gonna be an unusual image here. This is actually a video, a time lapse that it's playing, and I'm showing you on the bottom what's happening with light at sunrise. And so we're moving up to our blue zone here, which happens relatively quickly, and then the sky becomes a little bit too bright Now. We don't have really good cloud light here, so we're not getting this, so it's just kind of ugly right now. The sky's too bright and the landscape is too dark. And then as the sun gets up, we do have some clouds, kind of blocking it here. And so every sunrise could result in a different graph, if you will, of when the moments we're gonna be best and when they're not going to be best. And so at sunset there is a good moment. This is what I think is one of the best moments when it comes to twilight. There's a good balance between the ambient light level and the lights of the city much earlier than this. You don't see the lights of the city much later than this. The sky just becomes dark and you can't see Mount Rainier in the background. And so, in this situation, let me chart this out for you as well. So this is sunset, all right, and so sunlight is kind of right. There are some city lights on, but they're not. Nearly as bright is the sunlight. And then there's a bunch of other city lights that are not turned on yet because it's not dark yet. So as the sun sets, it gets darker. As for us, the natural light and where these two lines meet up is going to be really important in here. At a certain point, the city mandates and buildings decide to turn lights on, and now we have more lights turning on. And at the point where these two match up is a really good time to shoot. It's also about when we're getting our blue zone. And so for your city shots, you're gonna find that there's gonna be this five or 10 minute window where you really get this perfect balance of artificial and natural light. And that's the time you want to shoot for is right then. And so there's ah ah famous place up in Seattle on Queen Anne Hale called Kerry Park, where I shot this and there's thousands and thousands of pictures taken of Seattle there every single day, and I've been there a lot, and I know what I'm shooting. At least I think I know and I'll go there early and I'll wait through the whole process. But I'll set my camera up and I'll just be standing around cause I know it's gonna get good in 20 minutes, but right now it's kind of in the not quite in the right balance mode and somebody who might be there for the first time. Not really sure about what's happening with the light levels. They're just taking pictures the whole time, and they're probably gonna get back and go. Wow, These pictures were really good here, and these other ones weren't so. I'm not even bothering taking the other ones at this point now because I've been there and I've shot this enough times. I've learned my lessons, but it's this mix right here, this balance between the artificial and the natural light being right about in the same realm. Now, if you look over to Mount Rainier, look how well it's being illuminated the sun has set for quite some time and what's happening? I pointed my camera off to the right hand side, so this is what the sky looks like over here. And so this is the giant reflector that is illuminating Mount Rainier over here. And this is that nice warm light that you get, you know, 20 minutes after sunset. There's not real powerful, but it is enough to illuminate the mountain there. And so shooting cityscapes right at the right time a day. So I was shooting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul Had I was really happy that I have gotten up when I did, because I took this picture and I was actually taking just a couple of pictures and I took this one, and then they turned the lights out. And so you can tell how much of a difference they can make in having those lights turned on. And so either waiting for them to turn lights on or knowing when they turn the lights on it makes a big difference in a photograph. And so this nice, perfect mixture. I mean, I took the subway out, waited for an hour, and I knew that there was, like, five minutes where I was gonna get a chance to shoot my shots. And so what I would try to plan out is, what am I gonna shoot in those five minutes? You know what are different angles or different lenses that I can use for exactly that period of time and getting that exact right mix of that orange and blue requires you being there checking in the angles out And you will get that blue better by looking towards where the sun is gonna rise You can still get the blue looking away from where the sun is looking to the west and the sunrise But you will find that has a little bit more of an intense saturation when you're pointed in the right direction

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