#4 PAY ATTENTION TO THE WEATHER
The weather is our best friend. The whole art of landscape photography is about the weather and its conditions. But how can you predict a good sunset or sunrise? We need to learn to translate weather forecasts into something meaningful. I always use multiple sites to get an overall weather picture. It requires time and experiment to figure out which parameters are trustworthy for each specific weather site. I found that one place has a more accurate cloud cover forecast, the other one is better with the wind strength and direction, the third one has the best radar view.
HOW TO UNDERSTAND WEATHER FORECAST
First things first, in landscape photography we look for the lovely colors in the clouds. In most cases, I would rather stay at home for anything lower than 30% coverage. Unless I’m going for a forest hike, where the sky isn’t as important and strong light works better. For the cloud coverage starting from 30% and up to around 70%, it’s safe to take your changes and wake up early. Anything above depends on the clouds location and thickness, use SkippySky for that. It might look confusing at first, but it’s so helpful that you’ll love it.
High clouds are your best friends, always aim to get them. Low clouds rarely produce great colors. The best chance to get something spectacular for your sunrise photography with any clouds is to get a gap between the horizon and the clouds. But how to predict it? It’s not easy, but entirely possible. First obvious way – look out from the window and have a look if there is a gap. It worked for me a few times when East direction was visible from the balcony. The less obvious way is to use maths and SkippySky or a radar.
All these factors help you understand what makes a beautiful sunrise or sunset.
HOW TO PREDICT AN OPENING
- Wake up early.
- Open a local radar or a SkippySky app.
- Check the area size covered by the clouds.
- Refer to this horizon calculator and enter the altitude of the clouds. We can disregard the height of a human; it’s nothing to compare with the elevation of the clouds.
- The value you received in step 3 should be in the 60-80% of the value in step 4.
You’ll need to google for the average cloud altitude like this one here, for instance. Or even better, if your local area has clouds altitude maps available online. For example, this site provides the actual altitudes.
#5 CREATE HDR (FILTERS, BRACKETING OR UNDEREXPOSURE)
I have mentioned this before in other articles, but it’s still good advice. For the sunrise photography, as well as sunset photography, the exposure difference between the sky and the foreground is immense, and you need some tools to compensate. If you are shooting something with a flat horizon line, you can get away with the filters. Otherwise, I suggest using bracketing. This way you have better control of the final result. Please refer to the Exposing Photos Correctlysection of the Seascape Guide.
The only addition I’d like to make is – don’t mess with HDR making programs like Photomatix. You could, however, try how Lightroom or Photoshop merges into HDR as they do it more accurately. But it’s better to learn to do it manually, either using luminosity masks or other techniques.