Shooting in low light, especially right before dawn or right after dusk, is one of the most challenging conditions for nailing a technically sound picture. But this is when the magic happens!
I’ve always jokingly said that the more you suffer as a photographer, the better the photograph will typically be. I joke when I say that—but I’m also not joking. The reality of being a photographer is that the best pictures are often made in situations when most normal people want to be inside, either sleeping or eating a warm meal and having a cold beverage. But those moments, right before dawn and right after dusk, present some of the best opportunities for making interesting pictures.
A few years ago, I got the opportunity to join two of the world’s best alpinists, David Lama and Peter Ortner, on an ascent of Trango Tower in the Karakoram Mountains of Pakistan.
We bivvied on the shoulder of the mountain before our summit push. At around 18,000 feet, I was exhausted, cold and uncomfortable. David and Peter, however, were snug as bugs in their sleeping bags inside a nice, warm snow cave. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into my own sleeping bag and have a cup of hot tea.
Instead, I spied an opportunity to make a really cool documentary picture of Peter and David brewing up in the snow cave. I knew I needed to wait until the ambient light of the background balanced with the exposure of my partners’ headlamps.
And so, I suffered for the sake of getting a good shot. I stood there for an hour and waited for the light to be perfect. And I got this shot.
Check out my latest Tech Tip for my ongoing series Adorama TV “Getting the Shot with Corey Rich.” In this episode, I provide three tips for low-light photography that you can use, whether you’re sleeping in a snow cave in the mountains or just standing outside your own home and watching the sunset. Sit back, get comfortable and enjoy this episode because I hope it inspires you to get out and get uncomfortable when the light gets good.