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planning for outdoor photography


  • there are many factors that affect timing and choice of location for photography outdoors
  • for instance, one may book accommodation at a coastal resort aiming to get nice sunset imagery of the wrecked ship anchors embedded in the sand between rocks - this takes planning:
    • will you need to have low tide to see the anchors?
    • when is low tide and will it coincide with sunset?
    • what are the chances for a nice sunset - will there be clouds around but not too much?
    • does the area actually get a sunset or do mountains obscure the light and is sunrise better?
    • will there be a surfing carnival or bike race on that means accommodation will be hard to come by and road travel frustrating?
    • if you want to do Milky Way shots over the coast at night, will the skies be clear without light pollution from nearby towns or a full moon, and will you be able to see the Milky Way in that part of the sky at the time you plan?


  • seasons often dictate what will be possible
  • for astrophotographic landscapes of the Milky Way in southern Australia with Milky Way on the west horizon after twilight, choose Sept or Oct which are also a great time for wildflowers, but weather tends to be more variable with often cloudy and windy conditions which will hamper these endeavours (for shots towards the east before sunrise, you need Feb-April).
  • winter clouds in southern Australia are often quite different to summer clouds
  • the midday sun is much lower in the sky in winter making winter a better time for shooting in the middle of the day, but days are much colder and shorter
  • hiking in the summer midday sun is not much fun, so most prefer to camp in autumn which is more settled weather for camping than winter or spring, and not nearly as hot and stormy as summer
  • those looking for waterfalls in southern Australia will usually be best in winter or spring when more water is likely to be flowing, but one needs to choose a cloudy day to avoid excessive contrast
  • June to start Nov in the alpine region is regarded as snow season and many roads will be closed, and access to the main ones will require carrying and perhaps fitting diamond-shaped snow chains, however, be aware snow can occur any time of year in the Victorian Alps even at Xmas with a strong cold front coming through!

check for peak season, and events

  • nothing worse than turning up to a location and it is either fully booked out for accommodation or camp sites, access is closed due to some event or reconstruction work, or it is just crowded with people and kids
  • this is most likely to happen on public holidays such as Easter, Xmas and over the school holidays or on other weekends with good weather forecast
  • areas may be closed to access following storm damage or bushfire damage
  • in addition, the area may be smoke affected by a controlled burn off - check the website for updates!

check the moon phase

  • this is critical if you are planning coastal photography or astrophotographic landscapes of the Milky Way, or astrophotography
  • as a general rule, one usually wants low tide at sunrise or sunset for coastal seascapes, this occurs around full moon or new moon - the opposite occurs at first or last quarter moon phases!
  • for most night sky photography, we do not want the moon in the sky polluting our ability to see stars and the Milky Way so check the moon rise and set times - usually any time around full moon is not going to be the time to shoot - use these times for shooting the moon itself in a landscape or urban scape

check the weather forecast

  • will it be too dangerous?
    • Extreme heat risks bushfires so avoid forests and alpine areas in which you may become trapped
    • hot days also mean more water requirements and perhaps your hiking will not be enjoyable and may become life threatening from exposure and dehydration
    • storm forecasts and high winds make camping problematic and dangerous, plus, access roads may become blocked by fallen trees, and flash floods may make creeks and rivers impassable

summer sun

  • the midday summer sun in Australia is generally not conducive to great photographic shots nor is it conducive to enjoyable hiking in exposed areas
  • it may be a good time for macro photography or a siesta whilst awaiting the golden hours or night photography
  • see outdoor portraits on how to mitigate the midday sun in portraits

windy days

  • these days you will want to forget about outdoor macrophotography and astrophotography and perhaps any long exposure work as it can be hard avoiding camera shake and subject movement can also be unwanted
  • these days can be unpleasant and difficult for the glamour beauty portrait as it not only makes short work of all the hair styling but fashion wear can be uncontrollable while dust gets in the models eyes causing unattractive red watery eyes
  • the wind needs to be used to advantage such as:
    • flowing gowns or material in landscape or seascape fashion photography
    • wind blown hair in casual portraiture

partly cloudy days

  • these days are often the best for awesome photography as you get so much variety in lighting and shadows, but you do need to be responsive to the often rapidly changing light intensity and the quality and direction of light
  • sunrise and sunsets can be beautiful
  • outdoor people photography can be very creative but one often needs to be patient and wait for the light to give an optimal effect, this can be very frustrating if there are long periods of harsh direct sunlight

full cloud

  • these days the sky tends to be boring and is best excluded from your photos unless you blow it out by using it as a backlight source, or you use a ND gradient filter to accentuate the subtle textures and create a darker moodier effect
  • as long as there is not too much wind, these days work well for forests, outdoor portraits (as long as you address the issue of dark eye sockets)
  • it is unlikely you will have a nice sunset but if there is a gap in the clouds at the west horizon at sunset you may be blessed with a fantastic sunset as the sun lights up the undersurface of the blanket of cloud, even better if you have some nice cloud forms such as mammatus


  • cut your losses, change your plans and embrace the rain conditions as it can just give you the inspiration you need to capture something different to usual
  • if storms are around then consider lightning imagery or dramatic storm clouds, but be safe and not stupid
photo/outdoor_planning.txt · Last modified: 2016/02/12 20:42 by gary1

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