Hi everyone. Many of my friends and colleagues who follow my work know that I shoot many of my images at the edge of light. The edge, for me, occurs in the nautical and civil twilight times of the day, before sunrise, and after sunset. Nautical twilight is a 30 minute time slot that starts one hour before sunrise (and begins at the end of astronomical twilight), and merges into civil twilight that begins 30 minutes before sunrise. For sunset just reverse the scenario. After sunset there is a 30 minute period of civil twilight that merges into a 30 minute period of nautical twilight. After that darkness descends into astronomical twilight. If this confuses you let's see if I can make it clear with a sequence diagram. Each twilight period is 30 minutes long.
Morning: Astronomical Twilight > Nautical Twilight > Civil Twilight > Sunrise
Evening: Sunset > Civil Twilight > Nautical Twilight > Astronomical Twilight
Each of the twilight periods is 30 minutes long. Think of this time as natures dimming switch. In the morning nature begins to slowly turn the lights on. And conversely, in the evening, nature slowly turns the lights off. During morning shooting periods I like to be out in the landscape before nautical twilight. As nautical twilight merges into civil twilight the details begin to emerge in the landscape and todays digital sensors do an amazing job at capturing the wonderful quality of light at this time. The light is generally beautiful, soft, and low in contrast. Additionally the color tonality of the light can vary depending on cloud cover but is generally cooler in tones at the early stage of civil twilight and warmer as the sun begins to rise. The quality of the light is something I think about a great deal and is one of the most important factors in image making.
As the sky begins to lighten, that light is bounced down into the landscape, and renders an unbelievable 3-D quality to your composition. This timeframe is magical when shooting waterfalls. You can work the shot in such a way to capture beautiful surface details while maintaining longer exposures for an amazing silky-flow look to the water. The bounced and reflected light from the sky produces beautiful highlights but without the high-contrast. Using a polarizer at this time can work wonders to manage specular highlights and add some additional increased shutter time. It is important to bracket your shots at this time to capture all the shadow and highlight details. As you make your exposures use the histogram as a gauge to determine that you are picking up all the details.
The real trick in post processing is to balance out the image to make it believable. Over working highlights and shadows can throw the believability factor right out of the window. Often I find I can recover shadow and highlight details from a single image. Most often however I need to blend several images together. This is especially true with open skies and hot sunrises or sunsets. With cloud cover such as I had on this day I only had to work one image to make the master file. Don't lose the opportunity to shoot at these times. It is really magic.
Camera Details: Image was made with a Sony a7II and a Zeiss Distagon T, 25mm. Image exposed at ISO 50 at f11 for 4.0 seconds. To manage specular highlights I used a Singh-Ray Filters 105mm Circular Warming Polarizer. It you need new filters, don't forget to use my Singh-Ray discount code Clark10 when you order your filters from the Singh-Ray Filters site.