"After the Rain"
Ever heard of the term "rubber necker"? It's a term used to describe people who strain or turn awkwardly to stare while passing the scene of something interesting.
I'm a rubber necker when it comes to weather patterns. If you're a landscape photographer, you probably are too. Each day, I'll look at the skies and carefully observe cloud patterns, precipitation, humidity, and other elements to help me predict a good sunset.
The shot above was a result of a spontaneous decision to drive out to this area in hopes of a good sunset. I saw many of the indicators below, and decided to take my chances.
Here's a short list of things to look out for when trying to predict a good sunset:
1. High humidity
Has the day been particularly humid? Is there a lot of moisture in the air? If the air is moist, it improves the chances of seeing a colorful sunset.
2. After a thunderstorm
Some of the best light comes after storms. If you’re lucky enough to catch a sunset just after a thunder storm, you may be privy to some of the prettiest light possible!
3. Cloud Patterns
Are clouds evenly spaced? Spread far apart? Do they look interesting? Read up on cloud types here.
Look for big, high clouds, which are dispersed and plentiful through the sky. The more interesting the clouds look, the better. Complete cloud coverage is usually not a good sign. This means the sun will be blocked at the horizon.
Sometimes you’ll get unlucky and even in partly cloudy conditions, the sun will be blocked at sunset.
4. Look to the horizon
Even if the sun is completely obstructed by the clouds, it still may peek out during the last few minutes of the day. Try to get a clear view of the horizon. If the conditions are partly cloudy, you have a good chance that the sun will come through the clouds for a few minutes.
5. Recent weather patterns
Sometimes good sunsets come in bunches. If you’ve recently had a good sunset, the conditions might be similar the following day, so keep an eye on the sky!
6. Observe early color changes
Even an hour before sunset, very subtle color differences begin taking place in the sky. The most dramatic color is usually going to happen just before sunset, and sometimes just after.
Watch the sky and clouds carefully to start recognizing patterns. Early color changes are a great indicator of the type of light you may get at sunset.
7. Use hourly forecasts
Just 15 years ago, it was a tall order to accurately predict hourly weather. Now, there are plenty of Apps on smartphones that can be used to predict hourly conditions. This information can be used for planning. I find the forecasts are most accurate on the same day. I use The Weather Channel app.
So now you’ve accurately predicted a good sunset? What's your plan?
Find a go-to spot in your area. Make the spot somewhere you can get to quickly with a lot of shooting options.
Of course, there’s no guarantee you will get a great sunset. But you can drastically improve your chances if you pay close attention to weather patterns.
Sunsets can be a hard thing to predict. Hopefully these tips will help you.