At workshops and presentations I am usually asked at least once if I prefer the early or the late light, and why. For me this is a pretty easy question to answer. I don’ t have a preference qualitatively. That is to say, I don’t believe the light in the evening is “redder” or “brighter” than the first light of the morning or vice versa.
I have met those that have varying views on the subject, and more than a few of them. (These guys seem to have very different and strongly held opinions. I like to think of them as “Team Sunrise” and “Team Sunset”.) While I do realize that there just might possibly be some minuscule difference between the sunrise and sunset due to the leading or trailing edge of the visible spectrum relative to the direction of the light, I don’t really care. It all looks pretty much the same on the sensor as far as I can tell.
I prefer the evening light because the best light I will see during that afternoon is the very last thing that happens. In the afternoon the light progresses from cold and hard, eventually becoming soft and warm. This allows me to watch the light change real time, giving me the opportunity to adjust my decisions (move my tripod) as required by the changing conditions as the light gradually softens and warms. I can evaluate my options as the light gets lower; enabling the best shots possible for the conditions just before and after the sun crosses the horizon.
In the morning, the good light is the first thing to happen, progressing quickly from soft and warm to cold and hard. With the first few seconds of light being the best and reddest of the morning, there’s a lot of pressure to capture those first rays in a meaningful way.
In fact, I spend most all my middays looking for two specific things. I look for the area I want to shoot for last light, and I look for a morning shot for the following day. For my possible first-light shot, I’m scouting around for formations that might receive predawn “glow” and deciding which of those formations actually might be illuminated by the initial rays of the day; and of course I’m looking for foreground relative to those same formations. I then determine where the sun will come from and try to imagine the progression of light, evaluating the overall scene for possibilities.
Because there is one thing I know for sure, if in the morning, I’m not already set up when that sun begins its daily journey, I”m already too late.
(My wife was reading this over my shoulder and said the conclusion of this post firmly plants me in the “Team Sunset” camp. Nooooooooo……say its not so!! I don’t know, It’s pretty hard to argue this one. I hate it when she’s right.)
Here, the first rays of the day illuminate Mount Rundle, and is reflected in Two Jack Lake. This was a pre scouted morning shot, albeit not at all difficult to predict. The wind, thankfully was just still enough.Visual Flow: Mastering the Art of Composition by Ian Plant (with George Stocking) 287 pages $24.95 For more information click here.