Recently I was reminded how the quality of light and the time of day affects the look and feel of landscape images. An identical location photographed on different days can obviously look different because of changing conditions but pure direction of light is equally important. All the photographs below were taken at Wyadup. Wyadup is not far from Dunsborough, Western Australia. There is an interesting and popular spot here where an eroded portion of a rock finger allows wave surges to burst through and create nice waterfalls into a narrow sea channel.
To get this image framing one must set the tripod up facing west. The first image was taken in the morning with diffuse pre-sunset light at my back. This leads to an evenly lit, soft, pastel shaded image that is nice but a little 'flat'. The clouds and sky colour were certainly pleasing and create angled 'leading lines' but overall I thought the image lacked some punch.
This image was shot just before sunset, shooting towards the setting sun and the results are dramatically different. I used a graduated ND filter but even so the original RAW file had a lot of shadow that needed to be recovered (something the Pentax 645z files are perfect for). I intentionally shot very underexposed to make sure I didn't blow out the highlights in the sky too much and framed the shot so the sun was behind the rocks. With a combination of global adjustments in Lightroom and selective adjustments using NIK plug-ins I think the final image is contrasty, dramatic with a much better look. All the more satisfying given it was taken at a time of the day I had initially thought would be too challenging for this location.
I zoomed in a little for this shot later in the evening, and put the sun right in the rock breach. Again the effect is quite nice. The lesson is that we should not visit a location just once and expect to get the definitive shot. Several visits at different times of the day and different conditions will vastly improve your chance of getting an image you are happy with. I'm certainly going to go back to Wyadup again - maybe when there are storm clouds around!