A relevant question is, is there a best time for landscape photography? The simple answer is - not really. However, the majority of pro photographers shoot at dusk and dawn simply because of the beautiful warm colored light at these times. Considering this, you have to know the exact time of the day the sun rise and sets.
The time of year is also an important factor you must have in mind when planning. In the northern hemisphere where I life you don’t see the sun at all for a few weeks during winter. Not seeing the sun does not mean you cannot photograph. Even without the sun it is not completely dark in the middle of the day. It is a characteristic blue light this time of the year.
During a few summer weeks, you can not photograph typical sunrise and sunset because the sun never sets. This is the midnight sun. At midnight, the sun just touches the horizon before it rises into the sky again, and a new day have started.
If you limit yourself to shooting only at dusk and dawn, you only have 2-3 hours a day you can photograph. That is a limitation you don’t want, right?
Best time for landscape photography - not only at sunrise and sunset
1. Right place at the wrong time
What if the weather and light conditions are not perfect? We are exposed to beautiful photos from beautiful locations from all over the world. Some of these exotic places are not realistic for most of us to visit. However, you might have ventured on a once in a lifetime experience. Then, at the time you have reached your dream destination the weather and light conditions are far from what you had planned. Such a pity, a lot of money spent and this weather.
Well, as a landscape photographer such a scenario is the reality. It is nothing special with this, and it happens to the professional photographers as well. They shoot a lot of photos even in sub-optimal conditions. But unlike the beginner these images will not be shown to the world. Professional photographers only show their best work. So what do they do? Most of them go back again another time and hope for better conditions. If you are a professional, you can afford to do this.
There is always a risk even with the best-planned trip the light is not what you hoped. It has happened to me several times. Some years ago I visited the Greek island Santorini known for its beautiful sunsets. Three hours before sunset I sat down at one of the many restaurants on the caldera. The view was fabulous, the bear was expensive and the sunset was over in less than five minutes.
I was prepared to shot, so it was not the short time that was the problem, it simply wasn't a great sunset that afternoon. The light was faint, and there was a haze on the horizon. What a disappointment.
2. Don't underestimate your backyard
There are a lot of opportunities near where you live; you just have to explore them. The advantage, of shooting near home, is you will be much more flexible with time. You can plan to visit a spot one day and if the light is crap you can go back the next day hopefully with better conditions.
Not all of us are so lucky we can see and photograph the Aurora Borealis many times every season. Not all of us lives near the sea where we can shoot sunsets and great seascapes. If you don’t live near such a place you can find your local spots, you have to look around you. You will be surprised how you can make beautiful photos near where you live.
There is a saying “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”. As photographers we dream about travelling to far away destination because we believe we will make greater images there. Your chance, of getting the stunner shot, is higher at your local spot because of the time factor. You can visit at the right time possibly after a few attempts.
3. Go back again and again
Every location will vary throughout the day and from season to season. In addition, the weather and light will vary a lot. All these elements will give you endless possibilities for different photos even the location is the same. The light is not the only reason you should go back several times. You can also look for and try out new and more interesting compositions.
I have my favorite spot near where I live, and I go back there as often I can. It is interesting to see how landscape images from almost the same spot can be so different only because you go there at different time.
4. After a storm or heavy rain
This advice might not sound like the best time for landscape photography. After a storm, when the clouds starts to break up there is a good chance arrays of sun will shine through the clouds. When this happens, you have the scene set for some spectacular photography. Most people will not think of this rather cloudy and dark conditions to be good for photography.
Believe it or not but when you learn to see the light you will understand. Even if you don’t see the sun, there is some light coming through the clouds. Cameras are great for capturing this light that you might not recognize with your eyes.
5. Days with fog and mist
Another good time for landscape photography is in fog. Most of us don’t even think about going out photographing when there is thick layer of fog. That is a pity because you might experience great opportunities as the fog moves and change.
If you are high up above the fog, you can get interesting photos where the landscape or trees stick up through the fog.
If you are photographing from under the fog, you can expect the sun to break through anytime, so be patient and wait.
In my opinion, the best time for landscape photography is when you have the time to visit a location. A good landscape photographer can create amazing photos in almost any situation.