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.
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.
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.
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.