In clear weather, the times of the day when the sun is close to the horizon can produce some spectacular lighting on landscapes. To take advantage of this, be prepared to shoot quickly and move the camera as the light changes.
The most concentrated periods for working with the changing angle of the sun are at the beginning and end of the day, generally within an hour either side of the sun crossing the horizon. Every quality of the light changes: direction; color; intensity. It is usually unpredictable because of atmospheric effects and clouds, which reflect the light. In high latitudes, the sun stays close to the horizon throughout the day in winter, making cold, clear days perfect for photography.
All the remaining directions of sunlight are those of a relatively low sun. Low in this case means no more than about 30 degrees above the horizon, and in most of the examples shown here, no more than about 20 degrees. In a mid-latitude summer, this is before 6 o’clock in the morning and after 6 o’clock in the evening. The special value of a low sun is that it offers a choice of four major varieties of lighting quality at once – frontal, side, back, and rim. All four types of light can be found at the same time, with the same position of sun.
In addition, there is also the old cliche of using the setting (or rising) sun itself as the main subject of an image. The sun on the horizon seems an irresistible subject for many people, as evidenced by the number of “sunset viewpoints” at tourist spots around the world. Watching the sun go down is a time-honored pastime (watching it rise demands more discipline), but turning this into a good photograph means finding a graphically interesting setting, not a featureless horizon. A long telephoto lens comes into its own in such cases.
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