One of the best ways to improve any photo is to use dramatic light. Sunrises and sunsets provide the best and most reliable opportunities for good photographs in dramatic light. I always get a rush when I see a beautiful sunset or sunrise on the road. Experiencing a new location under beautiful light is just as important to me as is exploring the city or landscape, visiting the cafes, and meeting new people.
I’m not content to simply shoot whatever I happen to see when I see it. Instead, when I travel I seek out photogenic scenes throughout the day, and I return later to shoot the scene in the best possible light. This is all very transparent to the overall travel experience: I might be at a museum or walking around or at a cafe with a friend, and I’ll make a small mental note to return.
Sunrise is my favorite time of day. I’ll rarely wake up for one at home, but jetlag takes over on the road and it becomes easy to watch the sun come up when I’m wide awake at 3am. Sunsets are nice too; seeing a sunset is just a matter of working it into my day. I’ll often plan to have dinner at a place with a view, or hike up a hill to see and photograph the sunset. You can look up the sunrise/sunset times online if you’re not sure.
Any camera will do, although when I want to get serious I’ll bring a nice DSLR with a tripod, and if there’s water I’ll bring a neutral density filter too. Over the years I’ve learned that you can take advantage of dramatic light without overdoing it. Interestingly, some of the best sunrise/sunset shots don’t have land or sky in the frame at all. This requires a more precise, creative approach in capturing what the light does to things, as opposed to constantly trying to take pictures of the light and sky itself.
The following examples were taken all over the world using anything from a cell phone to a high end DSLR. Maybe I should warn you: there are a lot of pictures in this post. But I like pictures and I like dramatic light, so here goes…
There is nothing particularly unique about these photos other than just being shot in nice light, and that I made the effort to get to a photogenic place when the light was good. Anybody can take great pictures in dramatic light. It’s just a matter of putting yourself there.