Well, hello! We are taking a break from narrating travel stories today and instead scratching the musty, wart-ridden armpit of travel photography. (We will be continuing this series in the months to come, do drop by every now and then if it floats your boat. Additionally, you can find bite-sized travel photography tutorials that we share under #shootwithdarbadar on our Instagram account @darbadartrails.) Be warned though, this guide/series is NOT meant for people who already know their way about handling all those crazy dials and buttons on cameras. This is a completely non-technical photography guide meant for those who want to learn just enough to shoot decent photographs while travelling without wanting to read a thesis on the subject.

Now that we have put that hairy disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk business.

Picture this. You have reached, after undergoing a certain degree of discomfort, a spot overlooking a fantastic view – a mountain with rock-hard abs, an astonishingly watery river and the sky magically imprinted with the words – only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go. Meanwhile, your ride waits in the parking lot two minutes away. After three full seconds of life-altering epiphany, this is the picture you end up taking:

Bad example of shooting during day, Dzukou valley, Nagaland

Your friends sing praises. This heralds the rise of a great photographer, they say in unison. Then a week later, your friend Gajodhar uploads this photograph of the exact same location.

Good example of shooting at sunrise, Dzukou valley, Nagaland

Well, fuck. Notwithstanding the fact that Gajodhar stole my picture, how did he end up shooting a better picture? For one, he shot at sunrise.

At the heart of all great travel photographs, lies a very simple idea – use natural light when it is at its best. And natural light is best at sunrise and sunset; the light is softer at both times and creates delicate shadows and soothing colours that do not overpower the image. (Look at example 1 and 2 above once again. While example 1 was shot around noon, example 2 was shot at sunrise. Notice the difference?)

Heck, the light at both times, at sunrise and sunset, is so special that the people at Ministry Of Travel Photography And Associated Tomfoolery came up with two fancy terms to describe it!

  • Golden hour – The period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky. The following is an example of the same. Golden hour example, Barcelona, Spain

  • Blue hour – The opposite of golden hour, this is the period just before sunrise or just after sunset when light is bluish, diffused and even. The following is an example of the same. Blue hour example, Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya

Now as we all know, if there is a special term for something, we better take it seriously. So there, that is your first tip.

Sunset and sunrise are the two best times for shooting landscapes. But you are already rolling your eyes and twiddling your greasy thumbs. What if I land somewhere at any other time? Should I not photograph anything at all? Travel somewhere and not take a picture? Who says such ungodly things? Blasphemy!

Now, now, calm down. All is not lost.

Should you arrive at someplace at any time other than at sunrise or sunset, you may find yourself in one of these two following scenarios:

  1. It is a clear sunny day.

    Sunny days are great for taking pictures as long as you are not shooting at noon. You see, when the sun is right overhead at noon, it makes everything look like absolute shit. So what do you do? The sun is exactly overhead for a short period. Wait it out. And don’t forget to keep the sun behind you as you shoot (unless it is the rising or setting sun that you are shooting). This is what happens if you shoot facing the sun at any other time of the day: Shooting while facing the camera, Budapest, Hungary

  2. It is a cloudy day.

    You are in luck. If the sky is cloudy, any time is a good time to shoot. Clouds diffuse sunlight and thus rectify all the problems that otherwise arise when the sunlight is harsh. Take this photograph for example. Cloudy sky example, Yosemite, USA

And that’s it for today. That was not too bad, was it? Let us know in the comments below if you found this useful, or if you have any questions. Feel free to share this post and sing our praises because that is all we care about.