Rule 18: Set Your Alarm


I tend to be a bit of a night owl. Staying up “past my bedtime” would likely mean being up ’til about 1:00 in the morning versus hitting the hay around midnight. Of course, one of the side effects of being nocturnal by nature is that rolling out of bed in the morning can be, ahem… a bit of a challenge.

Maybe you’ve had the same issue, or maybe you’re an early riser during the week for work and like to sleep in on weekends (no shame in that, either). Try to break the habit, if not constantly then at least often enough to give yourself more photo opportunities. There are a few reasons to do this.

One, of course, is sunrises. When the clocks are turned back a couple of weeks from now, you’ll have a brief window when the sun will be coming up slightly later than before, but as the days grow shorter, you won’t have that luxury for long. Granted, unless sunsets are your stock in trade, you may not be doing this sort of thing constantly, but it’s nice to have the option every now and again.

Besides sunrises, there’s another reason to be up early: the “golden hours.” Some of your best lighting — lovely, rich sidelighting that you won’t find when your subject’s being washed out by the midday sun — comes in the hours around sunrise and sunset. Sunsets are easy enough to catch (we’re already up and at ’em by then, after all), but if you’re missing out on the dawn hours, you’ve cut your chances of taking advantage of that type of lighting in half. This is, of course, compounded when you stop to conisder that a subject that isn’t lit quite right at dusk might be perfectly lit at dawn.

Of course, if you don’t have to be at work the next morning, you also don’t have to limit yourself to setting the clock for six A.M., either. Try about four hours earlier. Photographing that late (or early, depending on how you look at it) also has quite a bit going for it. If you’re in a city or town setting, it can be fun wandering the deserted streets with your camera, as long as the area’s sufficiently safe to do so. In addition, light pollution is generally a bit lower in the evening, so it can be easier if you’re trying for photos of the night sky.

If you’re not a morning person, or a very-late-in-the-evening person, it’s not as though you need to make a drastic change to your habits. Stick to what works for you and your body. But every so often, try to change things a bit. Doing something as simple as setting your alarm earlier and getting out with your camera can be a small, if temporary, change that has a significant impact on how you photograph the rest of the time. Not only is it a great education in using available light, it might also present you with shots you might not otherwise have gotten.

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