When Is The Best Time To Shoot Landscape?

11 07 2011

So last week I was in Nevada and I went to check out Death Valley.  I scouted out Zabriske Point at Death Valley and planned the pano you see above.  It’s a pretty obvious shot of the location.  However as I was checking it out under the mid-day sun, I was asking myself when should I shoot it.   I think the conventional answer to that is to shoot it when the sun is low in the sky so that you get strong shadows and depth.  So that is what I did,  however I remembered back to a shot that Peter Eastway made in Death Valley, and the one thing thing that stuck in my mind was that Peter said he made the capture way after the sun went down when it was almost dark.

So I thought I would give it a try as well as making my capture in direct light.  For me, it was no contest, the light from the post-sunset capture was much more subtle, but still provided plenty of highlights and shadows.  I realised that the sky above the setting sun was acting like a big soft-box and throwing a much softer (but still directional) light onto the scene.

Not sure it will work in all situations, but it was definitely an interesting experiment for me.

Shot 40min after sunset

Shot just before the sun set



22 responses

11 07 2011
True North Mark

Cracker shots there Brent…looks like you had fun!

I will read the post when I get a mo.



11 07 2011
Odille Esmonde-Morgan

Nice work! In general, landscapes are better pre and post sunrise, it is just a question of how long before and after. And it is going to be different for every scene every day as the season and the weather have big effects on lighting.

11 07 2011
True North Mark

Yep for sure my favourite times to shoot are pre sunrise and post sunset as well mate.

In the Kimberley mid year, you just about can’t shoot when the sun hits the reds as it blows them out very quickly!

11 07 2011
Today’s Shared Links for July 10, 2011 – Chuqui 3.0

[…] When Is The Best Time To Shoot Landscape? […]

11 07 2011

Cool. Looks like a blend of multiple images? Or is this one exposure in your pano?

12 07 2011

Hey Nick
The pano was about 5 images stitched together, but they were all of the same exposure. The contrast range wasn’t’ that great that I needed to bracket and blend.


12 07 2011

Thanks Brent. The depth of the colors and exposure is why I thought you did seeing the 2 samples you also posted. Great eye you have.

17 07 2011

Great thoughts on landscapes – you could never predict light especially here in Florida so don’t expect to get great photos every night. Some times the light is amazing and sometimes it’s just not good enough. Don’t get frustrated – keep going out and you’ll get your gallery shot.

25 07 2011

beautiful Brent, love the subtle colour and tones.

29 07 2011

Stunning shot Brent. I Liiiiike it.

1 08 2011
Gregory B.

This is just awesome shot. Just beautifully clear. Funny how a “Dead Land” can be turn into a stunning image in hands of a skilled photographer. Alright, that’s it. Next time you’ll be in CA, you need to give me a call so we can hang together and go for a photoshoot or something. Australia is too far for me, and it looks like you’re more often in CA so I have a chance to meet with you. OK, I’m off to Death Valley now. 😉

22 08 2011

Hi I stumbled upon your blog when searching for ruins or overgrown buildings in Sydney for a photo shoot. I am a fashion designer and am doing a shoot for which I need overgrown/old buildings or even just concrete ruins/graffitied walls with nature “taking over”. I am wondering if you had any suggestions. I am living in Sydney and will be doing my shoot in a few weeks. I’ve got a few ideas but nothing is really grabbing me at the moment so any help would be much appreciated!

p.s. I love your smoke machine rockstar shoot. I am going to do a little bit of smoke for my shoot too however I’m using the smokers that beekeepers use. Should be fun!


23 08 2011
Neal Pritchard

Really nice Brent and great insight into the thought process of the capture … cheers …

26 08 2011

Brent I see you found the question you were asking yourself. I enjoyed the view 40min after sunset, beautiful colors from the sand and shadows.

30 08 2011
Mr K

Synergetic effect! I’m planning a trip to Death valley and stay at the abandon township near there. Its an amazing place for night photography.

18 09 2011
Galen Leeds Photography

Beautiful images. I’ve experienced similar timing of the light at the Eureka Dunes within Death Valley National Park. I’ve many pictures of the early sun cutting dramatic shadows across the dunes, but enjoy the subtler shadows from before sunrise (or after sunset) the best… Especially when not shooting black and white.

22 09 2011
Photographer Minneapolis

I just couldn’t get enough of your photo. Very nice.

5 10 2011

Hi Brent! I admire all your work and recently had purchased your ebook on night photography and light painting! Great info! I like the way you post-process the Death Valley National Park image. Would you mind sharing how your workflow on this on a video screencast. Love it!

8 10 2011

Hi Brent. Thanks for an amazing presentation last night at Mosman Camera Club. You’re a legend. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge they way you do.

13 12 2011

Do you mind sharing info on how did you post processed your picture?
It looks just amazing. I can’t get mine to look nearly as good 😉
At least let me (us) know what tools/plugins you’ve used on it, if any.

13 12 2011

Hey Greg

Ask and you shall receive…..

Funnily enough I have posted a full tutorial on how I processed my Death Valley image. You can view it here.



13 12 2011

I missed it…. I didn’t know you’ve posted already.
Thanks a lot.

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