photos at sunset

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by maria, Jan 11, 2011.

  1. Hi,
    I was talking with a friend and he told me that the best time to take photos is at sunrise or sunset.
    He is not alone with this opinion, I was told by others as well that the light at mid-day is not the best.
    Sunset light proved to be good when photographing ruins, as they change colour, as in this
    and I recall that the Acropolis looked similarly.
    But in Tallinn, where I went out late, it was rather resulting in just having the top of the buildings in, admited, nice light, but the bottom was dark:
    Same in Milan, where I was taking the photos in winter, when the day is short
    there were shadows from the other side of the street falling on the buildings and the buildings were not well seen.
    What do you think? What time of the day to take the photos?
    thank you
  2. [[What time of the day to take the photos?]]
    The idea that mid-day light is the "worst" light to shoot in is a broad generalization, not a specific rule. Urban areas have different light during different times of the day can change dramatically as light reflects off of other buildings. The mid-day generalization also does not take into account differences in light that come with seasonal changes.
  3. I was at the Colosseum last week of December, waiting for the evening sun inside. This resulted in the shadow cast from one wall to be cast on the other side. I did not try in mid day light, but I would guess at mid day that shadow may not be there....
    In general though, I'd say there is perhaps, a few minutesin the entire day when natural light is really, really good. Sunrise. Sunset.
  4. It's the golden cast of sunrise or sunset times that makes it the "golden" time for many of us.
    Like anything, it can be overdone, but it never hurts to get out early and late to get things the midday shooters will miss.
  5. @JDM - yes, but you have a wide street - what to do with the narrow streets of Europe when the sunset or sunrise light only works for the top of the buildings?
  6. I bought a Kodak DC3400 for $5 at a yard sale last year. It's 2 meg and was made 11 years ago uses CF cards. A few months ago, I saw a nice sunset outside my home and this is the result with this ancient digicam!
  7. But in Tallinn, where I went out late, it was rather resulting in just having the top of the buildings in, admited, nice light, but the bottom was dark:
    Same in Milan, where I was taking the photos in winter, when the day is short
    there were shadows from the other side of the street falling on the buildings and the buildings were not well seen.​
    Not sure how this applies to the "street and documentary" forum.....but anyway. sounds like you want to try experimenting with a Graduated Neutral density filter or Graduated ND filter. they can be used to even out the exposure when you have a bright sky and dark ground or dark sky and bright ground. Also try shooting an HDR in order to get the details out of the dark areas and blend the bright areas. You'd be better off asking this in the landscape / nature forum.
    I shoot at high noon!
  8. @Dave
    thank you - I was not sure which forum either ... but after all I want to shot photos of buildings to illustrate essays about those buildings, so kind of documentary.
    What is HDR?
    and I have no problem with the bright, that has a nice redish-orange light I like, I have a problem just with the dark.
  9. I have a tree outside my bedroom window, and it always looks better at 20 minutes after sunrise, than it does all day long. This is evident with a naked eye, not just a camera lens.
    Seems someone is always able to nitpick with a aspect of a post, rather than thank you for it.
    Thanks for your post!
  10. maria, i see that you are using a fuji s5600. although that is a pretty decent, if outdated, camera in many ways, i dont think that can take GND filters (or any filters), unless the lens is Internal-Focusing and does not extend. some of the newer hi-end compacts have built-in ND filters, but i think you'd be better off with a DSLR for this sort of thing.
    shooting urban landscapes in available-light is tricky. when i was in havana, i shot on some of the narrow streets you mention during daylight hours, and ran into the situation you describe. i just tried to work the shadows into the pic.
  11. [[i dont think that can take GND filters (or any filters)]]
    You can always hold square filters in front of the camera.
  12. Maria,
    HDR on wikipedia, has a good example half way down the page showing images, as well as definition.. If you google HDR there are ton of websites out there showing examples and tutorials. Flickr also has HDR groups to get some ideas.

    IMO a good HDR does not look like an HDR, meaning if it looks photo-shopped or fake then it's over done. but that is just me. Might be worth a look if you can't use filters with your camera.

    there are a number of softwares available to merge your shots into an HDR and most have free trials. so it might also be the cheapest route at least initially.
  13. @Dave
    thank you, didn't know that wikipedia recognises acronyms ... it even led me to the German page (I have a German operating system)
    This answers my question, I think, because you can keep the nice sunset colour (as the glass windows in the wikipedia example) and see the details in the shadow part.
  14. what if "light only works for the top of the buildings?"​
    It's not the width of the street, it's the orientation of it that matters.
    You obviously also don't get the 'effect' if you're inside a cave, for that matter.
  15. Sunrise or sunset has no bearing on street work in the concrete canyons of a city.
  16. Maria, there are no formulas, no "best" light. All that will do is lead to cliche'd pictures. Figure out what you want out of your pictures.
  17. Not saying you can't do it, but I don't think I would ever call a photo where HDR processing is used a "street" or a "documentary" or any other kind of "reportage" photo. But that might just be me.
  18. Maria, I don't even think about the golden hours when I'm shooting in a city with high buildings. That's not a rule anyway, it's a guideline. When I'm shooting out in the open I definitely will get up early or hang around just before and after sunset to take advantage of the light. And you can get your best silhouettes just after sunset.
    In a city you're wasting your time unless you're on top of the high building. Take advantage of the sometimes spectacular shadows you'll see in a city that you wouldn't see in the open spaces. Work with your environment and try different things depending on where you are.
  19. Maria,
    It is true that the most colorful light and more interesting shadows happen in the hours just after sunrise and just before sunset. However, as you have found, that doesn't work well, when your subject gets covered in shadows, during those hours. It's not only narrow streets that this happens.
    I visited Zion National Park, for the first time a few years ago. It is a very deep canyon, almost 1300 feet deep in places, but is is also rather wide, but because the wall are SO high, it acted like a narrow street. That's when I learned about NEEDING a graduated neutral density filter, and not owning one. The canyon floor was covered in shadow, and the tops of the mountains were in bright sunlight.
    My eye didn't see THAT much contrast, but the slide film did. I had exposed for what I thought was the middle tone, but I didn't want the light colors to be over-exposed, so I ended up losing the shadow details. If I had a graduated ND filter, I could have positioned it to make the upper part darker, and I could have opened the lens up and gotten both the sky and the dark canyon floor at the same time.
    I would guess that working in streets might need the same sort of technique.
  20. @Christine
    yes, this one with the top of a high building I forgot
    I've just posted it for critique on another site (here it was longer ago).
  21. Maria,
    When I see a photo portfolio where just about EVERY photo was taken at sunrise, sunset, or dusk, I usually give up and move on after about four images. Why? Because when every photo is taken in the same light it's BORING!
    Great light happens all day long. The trick is to match the light to the subject. Some subjects look great in midday light. Some look great on cloudy days. Some look great after dark. Sometimes some very interesting light happens right before or after a storm, regardless of the time of day. Look for different kinds of light. Learn how to use each to its best advantage, and your portfolio will be much more interesting than that of someone who shoots only sunsets.
    Below I am going to post some photos that I took in the middle of the day or early afternoon, i.e. in light that some people consider to be "bad" for photography. Do you think these photos would have looked better at sunset?
  22. This portrait was taken in harsh afternoon sun.
  23. A photo I snapped while traveling in the sunny South of France.
  24. Mid-afternoon shot taken under changeable skies in the UK.
  25. Street photography in New York City taken on a Friday last summer at about 1 PM.
  26. This photo was taken in late morning under direct sunlight.
  27. Good points, Dan.
  28. This may seem simplistic but it's about recording reflected light and the right time of the day to shoot a given scene that you cannot control is when the light is the best for that scene.

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