This is the enriched re-draft of my older text that celebrated the passion for shooting when the sun stays below the horizon. As it largely influenced my approach to photography, I wanted to post it here and now as well. There are many forms of light but generally a “golden hour” is widely considered as the very best time to take photos. No matter how cliche-ish this sounds. Whoever (landscape photographer or not) gets to any attractive place on Earth during the “golden hour”, which is something totally different from a common daylight must always be amazed. You just can’t escape, unless your feelings are as dull as a rock on the bottom of a lake. Lighting conditions that are unusual for our eyes change any subject matter to a previously unrecognized quality. The landscape is gaining some extra hues and the real feel of three-dimensional space thanks to a long trip the sun needs to take through the atmosphere and a low angle it is illuminating the ground.
Okay, everybody knows this. But let’s do an extra step or two. First, watch your favorite spot after dusk or before dawn, way before it. Then, shoot it!
It's very rewarding to photograph within the polar summer areas such as Iceland. The time period from dusk till dawn actually includes the whole night as the sun swims shallow below the horizon for just a couple of hours, say three in mid summer. Hence the opportunities do not have limits and it's always amazing to see how many photographers just miss them. Skogafoss reminds Manhattan during the day but gets deserted as hell in the night. But as you can see, the polar night is just perfect here...
Few years back, I visited to Tuscany and created this image:
Seeing the slide on my light table few days later have changed the way I was going about the light. It could not be more fascinating. What had appeared sadly colorless in reality, was shining at me with delicious combination of violet and pink hues. What had looked like the heavy cloud formation was suddenly showing clear movement paths and definition. If it is so simple to create artistic images, I’m in!
Ever since, I barely skip any opportunity to expose in the times between dusk and dawn. This is when the quality of light goes through the fastest and sometimes really dramatic changes. And this is when I can hardly imagine (and wait to see) what exactly the emulsion of Fuji Velvia, eventually combined with various filters, would see and render. The Earth is in the shadow while lit by the diffused light reflected from the upper part of the atmosphere, which still receives a direct sunlight. Sounds like a perfect chance to take up the challenge related to exposures and colors and produce a study of a subject we love to photograph that might come out very different. The ambition may easily vary between just ‘trying to see what happens’ all the way to the creation of a true fine art masterpiece. Given the long exposure times required as well as the fact that a perfect set up either does not happen at all (mostly) or lasts few minutes only, you usually have one or two chances per session.
This one has been created in Lofoten, Norway. Roughly one hour after sunset, I could see nothing but white skies and my film to be exposed for couple of minutes (unrecorded). The result is gently blued and moody landscape. Very different from what your eyes would have seen.
In any case, it is always fun and rewarding learning experience at last. Especially if you manage to take notes...