Wednesday 19 August 2020

2AM Wakeups

Golden Light on Smoke Lake

Fujifilm X-T2, Fujinon XC 35mm f2

If you're a landscape photographer, you've probably been asked the question 'why the heck are you getting up so early', if your partner, parent or child is a landscape photographer, you're probably the one who asked the question. The other question is always 'so when will you get home', with an answer that's often hours after dark. 

The image above is a partial answer. That image was taken at 6:41AM, and I'd already been shooting at that location for an hour when I took it. I arrived at 5:30AM and was setup 10 minutes later after going digging for a fleece jacket, it was 11C when I arrived onsite. I should have worn pants instead of shorts, August in the bush may be hot, but it gets quite cool overnight when you're that far north, Algonquin Park in this case, I'm less than 40 meters from Highway 60 here.

To get to this location, which is some 250km from my home, I left at 2:20AM after a 2AM wakeup call. Needless to say my partner did ask me if I really had to wake up that early, a thoroughly understandable question. Yes, I did have to. I could not have taken a shot like this without that early departure. 

The sad reality of landscape photography is that so much of your work ends up happening in a pair of roughly 2 hour windows, covering the hour before dawn to the hour after, and the hour before dark to the hour after. That's when the light is the best on most scenes, when there's colour in the skies and also when you get things like mist on the water. 

The challenge to the photographer, especially in the summer when dawn can be before 6AM and dusk after 9pm, is what do you do for the rest of the day. For me, I hike, or I drive around looking for something interesting. There's actually a lot of nature and more intimate landscape work that can be done even in noonday sun when you're in the woods. In fact for some stuff you really only can shoot it during the mid-day as that's the only time you're getting enough light between the trees. I also love stopping at little knick-knack shops, coffee shops and bakeries in small towns, although that's restricted these days with the COVID-19 issues. As such I really do try and avoid people and shops entirely when going out for a day's shooting. 

Napping is another valid option for killing the time between Golden Hours, especially if you're camping. Get the rest when the light is bland, so you can be awake when it's not (or for those moonrise and Milky Way shots at night). 

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