Shoot from dawn till dusk

Dedicate an entire day to taking photographs. Challenge yourself to take as many different photos as you can and really explore a location.

IF YOU haven’t got the patience to set yourself a year-long project, scale it back and make a day of it instead. Start taking photographs at dawn and don’t stop until dusk. There’s nothing quite like waking up at 4am, driving on deserted roads to a new location and finding the perfect spot to catch the rising sun. Once that is done, you can always have a nap in the car before taking a stroll around the area and seeing what else you can find. Have a location in mind for the end of the day, and head there to catch the sunset — it could be a location you have researched, or somewhere you have discovered during the day that you can return to.

Depending on the time of year, this could mean spending as many as 17 hours out taking photographs, resulting in perhaps hundreds of new images.

RESEARCH AND PLANNING

The first thing you need to do is work out exactly where you want to go. While it is possible to head out with no particular location in mind and strike it lucky by stumbling across somewhere amazing, it is far better to plan ahead and decided on a location to explore.

The internet makes location-scouting extremely easy. If you know roughly which part of the world you wish to visit, simply run a Google image search to find possible locations in that area. Flickr is also an excellent research tool: just search for a location and see what other people have photographed there. You can even refine your search by adding the words ‘sunrise’ or ‘sunset», for example, to see images taken at those particular times of day. Of course, these images should only be used for reference — your aim should be to go out and create something new, not repeat what has gone before.

A more advanced tool is The Photographer’s Ephemeris. This is an app for Android (£3.10) or iOS (£5.99) smartphone or tablets, and is available for free on Windows or Mac computers. The sophisticated software shows a map overlaid with the exact direction of sunrise and sunset in that area, along with the time at which they will occur. Furthermore, you can check the exact poation of the sun or moon for any time of the cay or night. This enables photographers to scout a landscape from the comfort of their home, so without having to go to a location you can discover at what time the sun will appear from behind a hill to light the valley on the other side, or what time it will be perfectly behind the peak of a mountain to create an amazing silhouette There is a lot of information that can be garnered from the software, and it will allow you to see exactly where you should be standing and when, which takes a lot of the luck and guess work out of planning your day.

WHAT TO SHOOT?

What you decide to shoot will obviously depend on your chcsen location. Landscapes are the most obvious subject, but the aim of the day is to try to come away with as much variety as possible. If you head to the coast, take a macro lens and keep a look-out for crabs and other creatures that may be lurking in rock pools. Similarly, a macro lens may be useful in the countryside for plants and insects. For more urban locations, search ou: good places to take documentary or street-photography images, and there is of course architecture, but don’t forget to include close-up images of details and textures.

The aim of the day is variety and keeping yourself entertained. Setting a whole day aside to go exploring gives you ample opportunity to try some new techniques, or to take a friend’s camera or lens for a test drive (see tip 4 on page 47). To get the most out of the experience, photograph as many different subjects and scenes as possible. Of course, it would be unrealistic to expect every image to be a masterpiece, but the day should be a learning experience with every hour offering something different as the light changes.

Once you have finished, why not make a photo book, slideshow or online gallery about your day? Don’t forget to take plenty of self-portraits and photos of your kit, as those ‘behind-the-scenes’ images that help to tell the story of your day

WHAT TO TAKE

As you are going to be out shooting for so long, and will probably have an early start, it is best to prepare everything you want to take the night before. It is always a good idea to take a rain jacket and warm jumper, even in the summer, as you don’t want to get caught out by changeable weather. Similarly, leave a blanket in the boot of your car, both in case of emergencies or if you fancy a quick snooze following your sunrise shoot. A bottle of water is also essential. In terms of photographic equipment,

‘There’s nothing quite like waking up at 4am, driving to a new location and finding the perfect spot to catch the rising sun’ you should have a good idea about the sort of equipment you will need based on your chosen location. Put together a good basic kit, starting with a 28-70mm f/2.8 lens, or similar, and a fixed optic, perhaps a 55mm macro for a good standard focal length and something that offers macro options. Another good choice would be a

70-200mm lens, or similar, to provide some extra reach should you see any wildlife or a landscape feature yoi wish to pick out. A good tele-converter that will work with your lenses can be a godsend, expanding the focal lengths available to you but without adding much weight to your bag. If weight is an issue, then an 18-200mm lens should suit almost any image that you are likely to take. However, it is when shooting on days like this that a compact system camera and its lenses really are beneficial, particularly the smaller micro four thirds or Nikon 1 system cameras. Not only are the cameras smaller, but so are the lenses. This means that your kit selection will weigh far less and fit in a far smaller bag than their equivalent APS-C or full-frame DSLR counterparts.

Remember to take plenty of memory cards, as you never know how many photographs you will end up taking. And with that in mind, make sure you pack spare batteries, or have another way to charge you camera, such as via an external battery pack or in your car while driving. This is another advantage of compact system cameras, as some of them can be charged via USB, so battery and in-car charging are possible.

Finally, take a compact camera. It won’t add much weight, and it may provide a longer zoom than you have on your main camera. Plus, it’s a great back-up option should the battery on your main camera die.

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