When I am photographing I usually go out in the afternoon to do some scouting in preparation for the evening twilight shoots that I love.
It’s when the last light is on the tips of the mountains and the sky begins to turn pale pink that I am in my zone.
I have written before about how most of the time my last shot is my best shot. But sometimes that isn’t the case.
Recently I visited Imperial Sand Dunes in California and, as usual, I went out in the afternoon looking for the perfect dune: the one with no footprints and great lines.
After climbing many dunes and doing some exploring, careful not to walk on any of the dunes that were potential subjects, I made this image one and a half hours before sunset.
This was the one. Please click the image to view a larger version.
After collapsing in the sand for awhile, my legs aching, and then doing some more exploring, I returned an hour later when the sky was starting to get some warmer colour. I just wanted to check on my dune and make sure there were still no footprints.
To see how the light was progressing I made another image and at first I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
It wasn’t the same. Somehow it wasn’t as good as the first image. How is that possible?
It finally dawned on me – it was the shadow! In the mid-afternoon when the sun was higher in the sky the shadow was not as long and the shadow itself created a strong and balancing line in the first image. An hour later the shadow had crept up and filled the entire foreground. That strong line from the shadow was gone and the second image wasn’t as visually interesting.
I learned five things on this outing:
- Sometimes the image I make during the scouting trip turns out to be THE image (so I should never go scouting without my camera);
- If shadows are a factor mid-afternoon can be better than twilight;
- An image should be made when the scene is most dramatic regardless of the time of day; [tweet this quote!]
- People who never photograph in the afternoon are missing out;
- Walking on dunes is really hard.
I have many more images from the dunes to share with you. Some are peaceful and serene images like this one. But on the other side of the dunes, where we were camping, it was anything but peaceful. I’ll share some of that excitement with you too.
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