Consideration of light in landscape photography is particularly important if you want to capture those magic moments with your camera.
In my opinion light ‘makes‘ the landscape as it gives shape and a sense of depth to the scene as it changes throughout the day. The ability to consider light first and foremost is what often separates a good landscape image from a bad one.
Whilst we can take our landscape photographs in virtually any light, the intensity, direction and colour of the light will have an enormous influence on how the landscape scene looks. We may find a stunning location but know we will have to come back at another time to ensure the direction and quality of the light is just how we would like it to be. Often this may just mean waiting patiently for a while other, alternatively it could also mean a return trip at a different time of the day or indeed a different time of the year.
In terms of light quality it is best to shoot early morning or late evening when the sun is lower and the light is ‘warmer’. Whilst the time of day has a significant bearing on the quality of light so too does the time of year, the position of the sun is significantly higher in summer than in winter at the same time of day. So for example if we want the light on part of a particular landscape scene we may only be able to shoot it at a certain time of the year. So, in reality there is no such thing as bad light for landscape photography, there is only changing light and our ability to make the most of it. Though dark, heavy cloud is not everyone’s idea of a perfect day it can be ideal for the landscape photographer as it can add mood and drama to the composition.
Light can change very quickly, the scene in front of us literally changing before our eyes. Sometimes the changes are quite subtle whilst at other times they can be dramatic. Having prepared a strong composition it is often a good idea to wait and see what happens. Planning your landscape photography trip is important to ensure being in the right place at the right time, though often a little luck as well can make all the difference.
Weather will always affect the quality of light, dark and sombre or bright and cheery we should try and see the potential in every opportunity.
Showery days can be interesting as changes occur constantly with the possibility of rainbows to add an extra dimension to your landscape photography composition.
Even at times of flat un-directional lighting that may less than ideal for the grand scene we need not despair, we can always concentrate on inner landscapes. Those small close up photography opportunities within the great outdoors that are often overlooked. This kind of flat lighting is perfect for recording these details, removing the harsh shadows so that the intricacies and fine detail can be photographed.
So as photographers we need to be very aware of the importance of changing light in landscape photography. Look ahead for breaks in the cloud that may provide a shaft of light as only by being alert to these potential changes when out in the field can we make the most of each opportunity.