You’ve covered your bases for that ever elusive amazing sunset shot: you’ve checked the time for sunset, mapped the exact location of the sun, and have composed a few frames so you know what to do when you get to the location. But what about the location itself?
You might be a wedding or portrait photographer looking for a nice spot for some golden hour portraits. Or you might be a travel photographer looking to capture the essence of a new place during sunset. Either way, the location where you shoot from can play a huge role. And there are tons of location options that look great during the golden hour: beaches, deserts, urban landscapes, and so many options in the general outdoors. However, it’s easy to miss or forget a simple logical element when planning your shoot: elevation. That’s right! Elevation can not only give you a different perspective to shoot, but it can also give you those extra few moments with fewer things such as trees to block the beautiful light.
Also, consider going to a higher spot as a plan b for portraits. Let me explain. For example, it’s not uncommon for a wedding to be running behind schedule. But does the sun play ball with this happy-go-lucky philosophy? Hell, no! So, what happens when your client wants a sunset shot and you’ve picked a beach or a nature reserve and you’re running late? It can be very stressful trying to get some good shots in before the sun disappears behind some trees, or some tall buildings, or the horizon itself. So, if you pick a plan b location with some elevation, it could do wonders: It could be a little cliff or a building’s roof with a bit of a view. The extra altitude will buy you extra time with the sun, the view/light being uninterrupted by trees or short buildings for longer and give you a completely different perspective.
This is not at all new. In fact, shooting from an elevated position is quite common in landscape photography, but when it comes to portraits, it's easy to forget this simple element among all the logistics and chaos. I know a friend who, along with his assistant, used to carry a ladder to his portrait sessions! Anything for a bit more altitude.
What do you do to get more out of the golden hour? Have you come up with your own little tricks? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.