Bad Light, Really?
Well yes, sort of. During a few recent outings I had the opportunity to really drive one of my personal theories about shooting whenever you can home. The first of these outings was a casual solo trip out to my local lake to see if a sunset may pan out and to get some much needed shutter therapy.
(The second outing will be covered in a part two installation on Friday!)
I arrived a few hours before sunset to give myself time to work out some composition ideas, shoot a few snapshots, and work out what my goals for the evening would be. The light was dull, flat, and frankly quite boring when I arrived. I grabbed a few snaps thinking maybe I could at least use one or two for stock photos and an excuse to practice shooting and editing mid-day shots.
As the afternoon wore on, I had decided to go down to the dam and see if there were any compositions to be had there. Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a relatively full flow from the gates of the dam. Voila, I had my subject for sunset. I decided to set up my main camera (Pentax K1 with the D FA 28-105mm lens) on the tripod and shoot a few test shots to find the angle and orientation that suited the scene best. I also wanted to try a few with and without an ND filter as well.
After a few test shots, I had found the composition I wanted. The clouds had cleared enough to allow for a great sunset, but were still present enough to add good interest to the sky. This was shaping up to be a better evening than I had expected. I had the K1 set right where I wanted it. I had the ND filter attached and a shutter speed selected that gave the perfect amount of dreaminess to the water. One more test shot with the K1, and then I would shoot about with the K70 and a long lens to get some other varied compositions.
The Good Light Isn't Always Great
As the day began to give way to night, I began to worry. The clouds had all but cleared out. How was I to get an amazing sunset photo with no clouds? Crap. At this point I was nearly ready to chock this evening up as a good excuse to get out of the house and have fun, but it wasn't shaping up to be an amazing shoot (having not realized the above test shot would work out so well).
However, the optimist in me begged to be patient and see what happened. Sometimes blue hour turns out better anyway, so let's stick around and see. I looked around for a few frames to take with the K70 while my K1 patiently awaited its turn to put in work on the sunset composition.
Sometimes Patience Pays
Then it happened. The horizon began to light up in a glorious golden glow. Golden hour was officially upon me. It was time to start taking photos for keeps. The time spent planning my composition and setting up the camera was about to pay off. The clouds had all gone, but the orange/gold glow of the horizon might just be enough to make the scene work.
Sometimes It Doesn't
All the preparation, all the anticipation had lead to this moment. I took a few shots that looked promising on the back of the camera. This was going great! After I was satisfied that my chosen composition had lead me down the path to excellence, I began to head back to the car. Once I had made it up a level from my initial composition, I decided to grab a quick handheld shot without the ND filter just in case. This turned out to be the only golden hour shot that managed to be anywhere close to as nice as the one I had taken earlier as a test shot.
Throwing Out Another Excuse
What is the message in all of this, you ask? Well, we need to quit using time of day as an excuse to leave the camera put away. As you'll see in part two of this blog on Friday, good shots can be had no matter what time it is. I never expected my test shot of the dam at Lake Overholser to be my best shot of the day, but it was. That photo has turned out to be the highest performing photo I've ever had on my Instagram account. Sure, likes on social media are likely not the best metric to gauge your photography on, but it does tell me that others enjoyed the photo despite the time of day it was taken.
The takeaway that I want to instill upon you is to get out and shoot. If you love photography, just go take photos. I sometimes find myself looking for reasons to stay home before I convince myself to go, and I'm never upset that I chose to go take photos. I think it's important to remember that and to keep on shooting. Don't worry about your gear, what time of day it is, where you live, etc. If you want to find photos, you will!
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If you're looking for some more pointers on shooting when conditions aren't great or you're bored with your locality, check out my YouTube video on the subject!