Join David Hobby for an in-depth discussion in this video Circadian rhythm, part of The Traveling Photographer: Fundamentals.
Okay, here's one of the coolest thing about being a traveling photographer; as oppose to being, I could travel photographer. Most things in life like, are like non-optimal. They won't, they don't work out exactly the way that you wish they would but this, the balance between photo and travel actually does work out the way you would like it to work out and here's why. There's like a circadian rhythm to when you make your best pictures. They're going to be from an hour before sunset to an hour after sunset. Golden light, blue hour.
Same thing with sunrise, although I'm not really a sunrise person. And, you'll make most of your really amazing travel pictures during that time. There'll be some exceptions, you know, something will happen and kind of bad light, but it'll be a great picture but the light is just awesome at that time. And, your family kind of wants that daytime, and wants that chunk of time like, your kids are not bugging you to go out an hour before sunrise, right? Like, they're getting up at like 8 o'clock in the morning and such. The good light's already passed by then. So, the neat thing is if you're a photographer and you want to balance travel and family, you can shoot very early in the morning if you want, you can have that whole day with your family.
And then you can reserve that little bit of time in the afternoon, and not only do you get to have the the pictures that you want, but most important, you get to have the travel experience with your family or even if it's just with yourself. I mean, this is just me. I'm overlooking downtown Baltimore. One of my favorite cities in the world. It's not too far from my house and, this is not a picture I'm going to take with my camera. This is just something I'm going to enjoy. This rhythm of shooting in the evening, and just kind of being a traveller during the daytime, is something I've used all my adult life as a travelling photographer.
So basically, I try to just explore places and be with my family during the day. I'll take the occasional picture, and sometimes I'll see something that looks fantastic during the day but it won't make a great picture. And, I'll go back to that picture, maybe like when Susan's reading to the kids before she puts 'em in bed or whatever. And going back allows me to be a photographer in a great time of day, as far as the light's concerned, but it allows me to be a dad, you know, when the light is not fantastic, and a husband, and a travelling companion, and we're having that experience as a family and that's cool.
Good example of, for instance, here's the Santa Maria Cemetery in Old San Juan in Puerto Rico. And we visited this during the daytime and it's a really cool looking old cemetery, and it's like right on the ocean and, and these are like some of the, some of the richest people that have ever lived in San Juan. I guess you get to get buried right by the ocean. But looking at that, and that's an okay picture during the day, I kept thinking what's that going to look like at night when the light goes down and those lamps come up. And, you can't even go in the cemetery but you can shoot through the fence. So, when Susan's back at the hotel reading to the kids, putting them to bed, that's when I'm walking back to make my pictures, and that's been something I've done all through my traveling life.
I think my best pictures are always going to happen in golden light, you know, right before sunset, then sunset, then using the glow after sunset and then finally, as you move into blue hour. For instance, this skateboarder shot in Venice Beach in California, was shot at golden hour this, this hostel in Costa Rica was shot right at the end of blue hour, when you're really just seeing the last little bits, and that's where I love as a photographer and that's where I'm going to try to show you to live too even after it gets dark. I'm still trying to shoot pictures right up to the last second because sometimes I can do things with five and six second shutter exposures with a tripod that I just couldn't do during the day.
Like, not good pictures basically. I also look for fantastic light at the edges of the day for pictures that would be normal pictures during the daytime. For instance, these clouds moving over the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica. That's happening right at last sun. And that’s what makes that picture. But as the day goes on, I’m always looking for changing lighting and, and basically around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, couple of hours before sunset, that’s when my mind is starting to change from that of a traveler to that of a photographer. For instance, this intersection in Havana, the light’s starting to come together for me, you know, everybody’s kind of moving in and I’m waiting for a nice picture to happen in that moment.
Waiting a little later, I'm, I'm catching the golden light. These little kids are playing soccer in the, in the street also in Havana. So this is when, this is my prime time for shooting. This is when I'm trying to peel apart from my family or, or to just have them like, you know, dad's going to go away and take some pictures for a little while, I'll be back at 8 o'clock, and that's cool. So, I guess I gotta be honest with you. I will be more likely to make a picture at midnight then at midday, you know daytime is reserved for family, and just little snapshots, vacuuming up memories and that kind of stuff, but this picture in Hong Kong was made like 11 o'clock at night. And there's so many lights in Hong Kong, you can shoot at just about any time of the day.
In fact, the only time it doesn't make sense to shoot in Hong Kong is midday. And coming back to this this scene I'm looking at now, there's no sense in making this picture because I know that in 4, 5 hours, this scene that we're looking at in, and okay, like kind of interesting this a city, but its going to look like this when the light gets blue. And that's the picture I want to make as a photographer. I don't care about this, this when I want to spend my alone time, this is when I just want to be vacationing, visiting a city, or being in the moment, or just enjoying the experience. It's when the light gets good that I want to make pictures and the dent, the difference circadian rhythms and being a photographer and being a traveller with, with your family or companions, they offset each other very well and that makes a lot of sense, and I love that.
You'll learn to plan effectively, choose the right gear, interact with the people you meet, take photographs efficiently, and—most importantly—create the mental space and time to actually enjoy your journey. David visits some nearby interesting destinations, proving that a great travel experience is not always about a far-flung destination. Along the way, you'll learn how to "decode" any city as a true traveling photographer.
Ready to explore more exotic locales? Check out The Traveling Photographer: Hong Kong.
- Thinking like a photographer while traveling
- Choosing gear wisely
- Balancing travel with photography
- Taking time to craft an image
- Being a chameleon
- Meeting people
- Managing photos from a trip