12 — Look the Other Way

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I’ve told you to plan your sunrises and sunsets in the past. You know, got to something like the Photographer’s Ephemeris and look up where you’ll be and where the sun will be and when it will be there. 

So great, you figure all that out and get yourself all set up and then watch for that peak moment when you’ll get that perfect sunrise/sunset photo.

Anyone that’s watched me when the light is going magic knows that I’m almost paranoid that I might be missing something. The obvious is right in front of me. But how about the non-obvious? More times than you might guess, the “better” shot is not pointed at the sun. I long ago discovered that, so I actually look like I’m doing something illegal when I’m taking sunrise/sunset shots, because I keep sneaking looks behind me as I shoot. 

In this example I was originally framed on a landmark building at sunset, but quickly changed my orientation when I saw a completely different and more interesting shot behind me. But this same thing happens out in the wilds, too. I may be shooting the sunset only to look behind me and find an animal poking out of the woods with gorgeous light on them. I could be set up with the classic landscape shot in front of me only to find that there was a more interesting shadow forming behind me. The list goes on and on. 

So don’t get so myopic when you’re shooting. Yes, that sunrise/sunset is gorgeous. But with the sun low in the sky the light ought to be classically warm and soft for other things, too. Don’t ignore what else is around you. Everyone has the “classic” shot from where you stand. How many have the “other shot”?

So when you pull up Photographer’s Ephemeris, don’t get so hung up on the pin location looking towards the sun (or moon) position. Try looking the other direction. Follow that angle back behind the pin and see what’s being lit by the low sun. This really applies to a place like Yosemite, by the way, where you rarely are taking the shot into the sun, but more often taking the shot of what’s being lit by the sun at sunset.  

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