Scouting the Sun Light

The most important thing to know about Location Scouting any exterior location or any interior location that involves natural light, is where will the sun rise, travel, and set – or the sun’s 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.

Sunrise in trees and fog Jamie Vesay TRD via CameraPlus iPhone Small WMI am surprised to occasionally encounter human beings, that are simply unaware that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Sadly, 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.A small fact that most earthlings don’t know (because they’re not Scientists or Location Scouts) is that the sun’s path shifts at different times of year from a southern track in winter and a northern track in summer. Hence – the shot above is sunrise from early summer shooting almost due northeast. The shot below is sunset shooting due southwest – in September.

cropped-wet-alley-at-sunset-nm-dutch-iphoto-treated-wm-copy.jpgSome times on the day you’re scouting, it’s cloudy or you’re in the shadows of buildings or a natural canyon or indoors. Yes, there are a few amazing Apps available to help you or you can always go old-school and use a compass. But you firstly have to know where the sun will be traveling that day.

In movie-making, 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 it 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.

Pause and reflect on that one shoot.  You know the one.
Pause and reflect on that one shoot. You know the one.

I have been paid to watch the sun rise and set –  for “work” – 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 2014  ANY USE requires permission.



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