Waiting for the Light

I want to show you a series of photographs that led up to my popular photograph Guadalupe Sunrise.  Notice the time stamps and how just a bit of waiting for the right light can be the difference between boring and excellent. I recognized that the sun was low in the sky and the clouds were moving quickly, therefore the light was changing quickly. It was just a matter of time.  In this case, less than 13 minutes.

Time: 8:33:48AM

Time: 8:33:48AM

Time: 8:43:46AM

Time: 8:43:46AM

Time: 8:45:28AM

Time: 8:45:28AM

Time: 8:45:46AM

Time: 8:45:46AM

Time: 8:45:59AM

Time: 8:45:59AM

Time: 8:46:18AM

Time: 8:46:18AM

Note that the final creation Guadalupe Sunrise (not shown here) is a composite of the second and last photographs.  Also note that there is only the same basic processing applied to these images, and with the exception of the first being at f/10, the rest are f/14, 1/8 of a second, at ISO 100.

The Color of Sunlight

When trying to capture a colorful grand landscape, it is often important to wait until the light itself has color.  We judge daytime sunlight to be white.  But when the sun is on the horizon, that light becomes “warmer” because it has to travel through more atmosphere to reach us.  Sometimes, depending on the geography, the clouds, and the particles in the atmosphere (haze, dust, smoke, pollution, water vapor), the early and late day color can be very dramatic.

When my wife and I were photographing in California last October, we visited Mono Lake.  When we arrived, the light was bright and harsh:

Harsh Light during mid-afternoon.  White clouds, deep shadows, true color.

Harsh Light during mid-afternoon. White clouds, deep shadows, true color.

Occasionally, early and late light can be dramatic.

As the sun dipped behind White Mountain, the light coming from the sun was not reaching us directly, but instead reflecting off the clouds above which were turning a deep red, showing the current color of the light.  This red light, in turn, lit the landscape.

The red light from the sun is lighting the clouds directly, but not the land. We are in the shadow of the mountain.

The red light from the sun is lighting the clouds directly, but not the land. We are in the shadow of the mountain.

Just when I thought we’d seen the best of it, the sun dropped further below the horizon and the sky exploded in red.  It was so surreal, like being on a different planet.

The peak of color.

The peak of color.

This deep red lasted for about one minute before it faded into the blue of night.  I’ve never seen such a dramatic display of color.  It’s one evening I’ll never forget.