There is no such thing as bad light for Landscape Photography

Regular readers of this blog will know how I regularly leave my house at silly hours of the morning. Driving through the night and hiking to remote locations in time for sunrise is a very regular occurrence in the life of many dedicated landscape photographers. It’s a necessary evil in this game.

How so? It is the hour’s either side of sunrise & sunset that give the classically defined good light – soft, warm & colourful. Skilled photographers can manipulate this beautiful light helping create appealing images full of depth, drama & emotional impact.

I have lost count of the number of times, I’ve stood next to my tripod in the cold darkness, watching the horizon & hoping to see a glimmer of pre-sunrise colour appearing so I can get to work. Most of the time, this magic light never materializes. Do I pack up and go home – never!!  

There is no such thing as bad light

Those close to me will have heard me say many a time that “There is no such thing as bad light”.  I truly believe that once you can see, there is always an image to be had. More recently, this whole concept has even been turned on its head as Astro photography becomes increasingly popular.  Images are all around, it’s more about seeing them.

Matching light with images

Not all landscape photography styles work under the classical sunset / sunrise clichés. Why seek beautiful colour if the final intention is a colour muted landscape?  These scenes are more suited to overcast days. What about woodland photography – the last thing you want is a harsh sun creating dark shadow. Fine art mono long exposure photography wouldn’t have me even venturing out unless there was almost 100% cloud cover.

Light versus Photographic Style

Oftentimes, photographers claim to have developed or resonated towards a particular style of landscape photography. Their work then tends to have a main character which is very identifiable. Whilst this is great, I am sure it hugely limits what they shoot as they are then waiting for very particular weather conditions to suit their chosen style of photography.     

My Approach

As a very time-poor amateur photographer, I don’t have the luxury of watching & waiting for conditions to match my tastes perfectly. I simply head out the door with my gear whenever I can. I face what mother nature throws in front of me and adapt how I shoot on the given day in the hope I come home with an image I like.  Some of my favourite images have been created in the worst of conditions so for me – there is no such thing as bad light for landscape photography – I work with the light I’ve been given.

A recent example

Myself and Graham Daly met up in Cork last week. A quick spin along the coast in deteriorating weather left Galley Head as the only safe place to shoot. The waves driven in thanks to high swells and strong winds were battering the coastline. It looked unlikely we were going to get sunset colour. Instead of lamenting the loss of light, I simply turned my view finder into mono mode and attempted to shoot a more intimate scene that still demonstrated the power of conditions faced that evening. The image below is the result.

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  1. tande September 24, 2019 at 8:04 pm #

    Dear Mr Kelly,
    My ancestors crossed the bridge of tears, as they walked to Derry to set sail to a far away place … where six generations later I discovered you photographs and was was moved to travel back to near the location of the first image that I saw of yours, of the Murder Hole, that made me feel a connection with my past … so much so that I bought a house near Carrigart and moved here permanently.
    I love it here. I love your photographs, writing, generosity and care.
    I’d like to thank you.

    • admin October 8, 2019 at 8:29 am #

      Thank you very much – as a photographer all you hope is that the viewer will connect emotionally with your images – you never expect to get a message as deeply moving as this….. You’ve moved to a wonderful place- enjoy and thanks again

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