Ghostly light of full moon over 7227m high Langtang Lirung in Nepalese Himalayas. Its summit, always covered by ice and snow, shows incredible textures as opposed to the black rocky 'hill' before it. Trekking in Langtang National Park, in the Nepalese Himalayas.

Don’t Sleep

I don’t know about you but I love sleeping. If I could, I’d just sleep ten to twelve hours a day. However, when I’m on a mission to make photographs, I know what I can miss early in the morning and late in the evening if I let go. Sleeping becomes then less of a priority.

As you may already know, some of the best lights for photographers happen right after sunrise and just before sunset. These are called Golden Lights and photographers — especially landscape photographers — tend to rush to get the best out of this one hour time range. Although sunsets are quite accessible for the average person, sunrises require a bit more of a serious approach, especially during winter when sleeping out in the open — cold places lovers surely know what I mean.

It becomes even more interesting if you sleep a little bit less. Actually, lights start to become very interesting about half an hour before the sun rises. Sky changes color, cities and villages wake up, fog might even be present… These are some of the many advantages to wake up before the sun.

Ghostly light of full moon over 7227m high Langtang Lirung in Nepalese Himalayas. Its summit, always covered by ice and snow, shows incredible textures as opposed to the black rocky 'hill' before it. Trekking in Langtang National Park, in the Nepalese Himalayas.

Waking up before the sun gives you the chance to see what most people never see. At night, just before the sun rises, one can stumble upon great photographic opportunities.

This photograph, for instance, has been shot at about 4:30AM. I already knew the place, especially where and when the sun would rise. My purpose was to be ready to capture the morning light on this mountain, but I couldn’t resist to the ethereal mood created by the remaining stars and the moonlit snow on the peak. I had only one chance: on the next shot, stars were already gone!

One can also experience the same kind of conditions after sunset — even if usually, in the mountains, evenings skies are seldom clear. Nevertheless, light remains usually interesting until the end of what we call Blue Hour, when the sky turns deep blue before the night settles. After that, you can still enjoy night photography if you feel the courage!

Wherever there is light, one can photograph. — Alfred Stieglitz

However, as we’re getting close to the Arctic Circle — or the Antarctic one —, things start to change. During winter, we just need to be up for the few hours of light. Easy. But in summer time the higher we get, the later the sun sets — if it ever sets — making sunrise and sunset photographs difficult, if not impossible. Unless we consider the possibility of living during the “night” and sleeping during the day. It can feel a bit strange in the beginning but it definitely is something worth considering: better lights, less tourists, more animals, …

Wrecked icebergs on black sand beach of Jokulsarlon, Iceland

When you get close to the Arctic Circle, in summertime the sun just sets for a few hours. It becomes a great opportunity to capture tourist-free landscapes with a soft and appealing light. Also, it gives you the possibility to capture sunrise and sunset light without having to wake up early!

So next time you’re going to make photographs, whether at the extremes of our planet or not, think about the pros and cons and settle for this decision: don’t sleep (a lot)!

 

Have you experienced great moments when photographing early in the morning or late at night? Do you think it is best to have a good sleep to be more creative the next day? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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