Karen Turner PHD | The Defining Moment Part 2
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The Defining Moment Part 2

The Defining Moment Part 2

By Barbara Stitzer for Boomeryearbook.com

When I first started as a photographer, I shot all day and night, with no regard for light at all. “I don’t have time to get up before dawn and wait to see if something happens”, I thought. I got tons of harsh shadows, especially in scenery, and was constantly disappointed in my results, because the defining moment in scenery photographs is the light on the scene. That’s why I cringe when I see people taking pictures of famous places, like the Grand Canyon at high noon. I just know that when they see their shots, they’re going to be so disappointed because the pictures aren’t going to look like what they see.

There is a really pretty spot near my home where a lot of people come to set up their cameras to shoot the sunset. The gang usually gets there about two or three hours before sunset, and spend forever fiddling with their tripods and lens cleaner, and who knows what else, and then as soon as the last sliver of sun goes under the horizon, they drop their cameras and take off. I’m always stunned. I feel like screaming, “Dude, You’re Missing the Light!”, but I don’t want anyone to get mad and pop me one, so I just set up in their prime spots and shoot away. Another way of finding your defining moment is with light, especially if you’re shooting scenery. The best time to shoot is a half hour before sunrise until an hour after sunrise, and then an hour before sunset until a half hour after sunset. Any time you find yourself shooting a landscape or scenery during the day, just put your camera down, because you’re going to find yourself with blown out whites or shadows with no details and, like those days when you’re out of training, but you still think you can pound down three gold Cadillac margaritas, you’re going to hate yourself in the morning.


An hour before sunset, the light was still on the harsh side, and even though the light was directional and the shadows soft, the picture isn’t anything special, it’s just a bunch of cacti. But right after sunset, the light changed dramatically. The light has fallen off the foreground, but there is enough light there to show all of the detail in the foreground while pointing toward the real scene stealer, sunset at the Tonto National Forest. When the light left the mountains on the forest, I turned to see the last moments of sunset and shot this silhouette of the mountain, I looked around and all of the other guys had gone home! I couldn’t believe it. This shot has sold a million, billion times, and my exaggeration is minimal. So next time you take your camera out at sunset, stick around. You just might be pleasantly surprised.


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