Important things to know about Location Scouting any location—with natural light is where the sun rises, travels, and sets. Also known as the sun path. More importantly, what will that path look like on the day you will be shooting? That time could be the next day, month, or year.
I am still surprised to occasionally encounter human beings who are simply unaware that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Even sadder? Some don’t even know which direction east or west is… Technically, the sun rises and sets due east and due west at a very limited time of year.* Most earthlings (because they’re not Scientists or Location Scouts) don’t know the sun’s true path shifts at different times of year from a southern track in winter and a northern track in summer. The photo above is sunrise in summer shooting almost due northeast. The shot below is sunset in autumn shooting due southwest.
Some times on the day you’re scouting, it is cloudy or you’re in the shadows of buildings or a natural canyon or indoors. There are a amazing Apps available to help you or you can go old-school and use a compass. But you must know where the sun will be traveling that day.
In movie-making of yester-year, DP’s would often order a Light Study for a location. This practice is rarely employed any more because of the Apps mentioned above but the process would involve a Scout being at a location all day, snapping a photo every hour, to see when the best light occurred. I did one of these recently at the times of day when I knew we would be shooting. It was refreshing to see the actual sun path and learn what it was doing.
Yes, I have been paid to watch the sun rise and set – and I am grateful. In most cases, it was me, the camera, and the daily gift of natural light. There is a quiet calm that can only be experienced at those paused moments. Those moments have been magical and they make for elements of production nirvana.
Learn from the sun’s path. Shoot it when it shines best. Be thankful you’re seeing it.
* My compass readings are based on the geography of the United States of America.
Photos and words COPYRIGHT Jamie Vesay USE requires permission.