Don’t get caught up in the notion that wild light only concerns the sky and clouds. As much as we would want wonderful puffy clouds in the sky as we photograph the sunrise or sunset, more often than not it seems like we are stuck with clear skies. So what does one do then? Do we just pack it in and come back another day?
When there are no clouds to speak of, the window of wild light seems to really narrow itself, but it’s still there, we just need to know where to look. And to be ready to shoot when it appears.
Now the first point of business here is you will want to reduce the amount of sky in the shot as much as possible. You still want some sky, so you can set up the composition to take advantage of the Earth’s shadow and the Belt of Venus. That’s the key! In the case of this shot here I composed the shot to get the edge of gold from the sunrise, and then next to it, the blue from the earth’s shadow and magenta from whats called the Belt of Venus. I like to compose as much as possible where I can get the intersection of all 3 of those colors. It can really add a nice appeal to an otherwise barren sky.
Of course the color in a sky like this doesn’t really matter much if the composition doesn’t have a strong ground layer. In my earlier shots that morning from this location I shot much wider as I was including a setting moon, etc… But for this particular shot I decided to shoot tighter to so as to just get the color along the horizon and to focus the eye more on the wonderful canyon light as one looks down from Dead Horse Point in the State Park of its name in Utah. It’s a beautiful area where in early or late light, the contrast between light and dark play such a crucial role.
When processing this shot, I restrained myself from adjusting too much contrast into the shot. So it was just a subtle contrast adjustment to bring some depth to the shadow areas. I did not go overboard as I wanted to leave the viewer with a feel for the soft delicate light that comes with that early morning I experienced. Now in just a quick 5 or 10 minutes as the sun breaks the horizon and starts to beam down onto the canyons, the light quickly becomes harsh, and the contrast does indeed become extreme.
But there are a few moments in time, where if one is there in time to capture it, that even on a barren sky morning, the wild light does exist and shine upon all it surveys.