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Photography overnights and how to plan for them

For most landscape photographers, including myself, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, seemingly easy you’d think but quite the opposite. With ever-changing conditions, it doesn’t matter how good the forecast is, it tells you nothing about how good the conditions might be for a sunrise and the same for a sunset. I guess I’ve always ventured out with the thought process, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ so if you’re not out there trying, it’s better than not being out there at all. Photographing landscapes with all this in mind, is one of, if not, the most challenging of all the photography forms.

Sunrises and sunsets are the pinnacles of each day for shooting landscapes, but with those places providing epic scenery and multiple layers, they can be often difficult to reach; that’s when a photography overnight comes in. Planning, preparation and execution are key, for the more variables you can take away and plan for, the more confident and informed you will be. A photography overnight often entails walking/trekking/hiking to the desired location the day or evening prior, to ensure you get to witness both the sunset and sunrise in that particular location.

With many things to plan for and prepare, I’ve put together a list of 5 factors to consider when planning your next photography overnight.

Moon Phase

This really comes into play if you’re looking into shooting night photography. It’s a common mistake and one I’ve personally made heading into a trip to not check the moon phase, for If you’re looking to shoot the milky way when the moon phase is full moon, you may be wasting your time. Often the locations you’re preparing for and trekking to are away from civilisation and so with little or much less light-pollution, you may be in luck of an incredible nights sky view when the moon phase is very little or even a new moon.

Layers and angles

Landscape photography can be very subjective and that’s what is so great about it, everyone’s creativity and look is different. When preparing for an overnight, I like to choose somewhere that has various angles, as I don’t want to be returning home with just 1 scene in several variations. Layers are highly important, which can mean laying low or getting up high, anything to fill out the image with detail whether it be forests, lakes or mountains and peaks.

Sky clarity and precipitation

I personally like to steer clear of a ‘general forecast’ and focus more on what a designated area forecast is such as a mountain/peak forecast or for a given National Park. If you can’t find one for the particular area, search a place that’s nearest as this might give you some idea as to what to expect. For both sunrises and sunsets, I personally like a more dramatic sky involving clouds, but too many and you may not witness anything at all.

Do I really need it?

Your desired location, depending on how adventurous you’re feeling, may involve you trekking for several hours, maybe even up to high altitudes for the more ambitious. That being said, when you actually pack your bag and swing it onto your back, you may begin to realise how heavy your pack is and that could be down to just how much camera gear you’re taking. There’s little that can’t be achieved without a camera, tripod and a filter so consider your gear itinerary and re-evaluate what it is you actually need for it could save you a kg or 2. I personally take a lighter tripod than my regular one for my photography overnights which saves even more weight. You’ll be thankful for it when scaling those hills!

Camping spot

If there’s an exact shot you have in mind, or even if you’re going to wing it and see what you find, picking a camping spot can be tricky. You don’t want to be too far away from your shooting position yet, you don’t want to leave yourself exposed to the elements if the conditions do change. Consider some wind-break protection if you’re up high and exposed yet, if the conditions allow, park as close as you can to your spot and wake up to some epic views out of your front door.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and hopefully provides you with a few extra factors to think about when going out to shoot on your next photography trip.

Until next time…


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