I think a lot of photographers these days are taking the old adage about “Shooting at Sunrise” too literally, and because of it, they’re missing out on a lot of great shots.
Here’s what I mean: The best light, and amazing skies, and empty streets, and tourist-free areas — the dream of travel photographers everywhere, all happen well before sunrise. The sunrise itself is silently signaling “Here comes the end of your shoot — time for breakfast!” But unfortunately, that seems to be when all the photographers start showing up — right after all the good stuff just ended.
Erik Kuna (Rocket-photographers and my co-host on ‘The Grid’) and I were in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago leading a local photo walk as part of my annual Worldwide Photo Walk. During the walk, we went through Millennium Park, and its most famous feature, the giant chrome-covered “Bean” sculpture (it’s actually named the ‘Cloud Gate sculpture,’ but I’ve yet to hear anyone call it anything other than “The Bean”). Anyway, around 70,000 people visit The Bean each day — it’s absolutely packed with people from morning to night. But Erik decided to get up really early to shoot it. Ya know how many people Erik found when he went to The Bean well before sunrise? Just one.
Not only were there no tourists. There were no photographers. All this beautiful light. Great clouds. No tourists, and not a single photographer
The same thing happened this week in New York
Erik experienced this same phenomenon this past week in New York City (we were up there for the Photo Plus Expo). He got up early and walked over to “Vessel” in Hudson Yard (it’s
He also got up early on the 2nd day; went out to that famous shooting location in the Dumbo park area of Brooklyn (you know the one), and ya know what? Same thing — great light; no tourists, and still no photographers. Once the sun came up, with it came the photographers, the tourists, and the Instagrammers with selfie sticks.
This is an easy mistake to avoid
All the good stuff happens well before sunrise. In that 30 minutes before the sun comes up — you need to be out there, in place, on a tripod, ready to capture the tourist-free scenes in beautiful light. Once the sun comes up, you have just a few more minutes where the light is still good — the color is warm, and the sun is touching the edges of things as it rises, but 15 or so minutes after that, the light generally turns pretty bad, and that’s the way it stays, getting worse and worse all day until about an hour or so before sunset.
Just get up a little bit earlier. Don’t time your morning to get there at sunrise. Get there at least 30 minutes early, and the difference in your images will be amazing, you’ll have your choice of spots, no tourists, and you’ll see for yourself why it pays big time to set your alarm clock a bit earlier.
Here’s wishing you a tourist-free, great light week of shooting wherever you are. :)
P.S. I’m off to San Francisco next week for my “Ultimate Photography Crash Course” full-day seminar out there on November 6th.