One of the routines I go through just before a shoot (almost unconsciously now) that I learned from a fellow photographer is to ask myself a few very basic questions.
- Which way is North? This will tell me where the sun will rise and what direction it will travel. I'll know what side of a building will be illuminated, where the shadows will fall and where I need to be in relation to the sun. I have one of those temperature and direction gizmos in my car, but have recently gotten a smart phone and downloaded a simple compass App. It's really easy to get yourself turned around and lose your sense of direction when wandering around in the predawn darkness.
- What time of year is it? To some, that may seem a silly question, but this will help you know how much time you will have for a shoot and how high in the sky the sun will travel. This will also effect the color of the light you are shooting under. We have all heard of the "Golden Hour" and I am here to tell you there is such a thing and it does make a difference. There is nothing more magical than shooting during this time of day. The hues and shadows that happen during that time literally make my heart race. (More on the Golden Hour in future posts)
- Where am I? No, not because of all the beer the previous night, but more so in relation to the Equator (North or South and how far away). This plays a major part in the previous question and what it means to my photographs.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. I was shooting at Shaker Village of South Union. I knew on which side of the building the sun would be shining and how high in the sky the sun would be. I put myself in the position to take advantage of the sun. (The second floor of the Centre Family Dwelling on the East side) Now....I didn't know the sun would be shining on the candle stand, but I did know it would be shining through that window. Part planning, part luck, part "gift".
There are all kinds of Apps that you can download to track the sun, the moon and the stars as well as web sites that will give you the same information, but just asking yourself these few simple questions can help put yourself in "the right place at the right time". I like the freedom and flexibility of being able to roam about a location and not sit and wait for one special shot that just may not happen. If that's you...it's OK, it's just not for me. What other shots might I miss if I am sitting and waiting for that "one" shot? It would have been this one.