Shoot Like A Pro

The first installment of Scout's five-part series on taking your outdoor photography to the next level.

"Rocky Mountain Sunrise" by Glenn Nelson

Outdoor photography is probably not for the financially meek. In addition to all the gear and travel, it's also going to cost a good 10 of your usual 40 winks.

That's because purveyors of the heavy lidded lifestyle swear by the so-called "Golden Hour" – the first half hour after the sun rises and the last half hour before it sets. Give or take. As you'll see later this week, I'm on the give side at sunset.

Getting to Sprague Lake for sunrise last summer in Rocky National Park (Colo.) meant getting up at 3:15 a.m. Don't forget to factor in travel and setup time. It'll be dark enough that a tripod and remote trigger are musts. If you didn't scout out a location the day before, you'll also need time to find and compose your scene.

This picture is not my most spectacular sunrise shot, but it represents the spoils from a bit of a gamble. I was told that sunrises weren't great at RMNP because the skies tended to be clear. As a soggy Seattleite, I count on cloud cover the way the Miami Heat count on LeBron James.

On this particular morning, clouds not only appeared, they were scattered, the best-case scenario. Scattered clouds mean, for one thing, the sun is not completely obscured. For another, they add texture and drama to the sky, as well as additional surfaces off which the wonderful light can bounce.

But I easily could have sacrificed four hours of sleep or the possibility of, say, seeing a moose for a lifeless scene.

That's why I love photographing landscapes in the winter. The sun can rise as late as 8:30 a.m. and set as early as 3:30 p.m. Summer, with its 5:00 a.m. sunrises and 9:30 p.m. sunsets, literally can squeeze the REM sleep right out of your routine.

Equipment: Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5 lens, Really Right Stuff TVC-33 tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead, Lee Filters 2-stop ND Grad filter, Nikon MC-36 Multi-Function Remote.

Settings: 35mm, f13, 1.6 seconds at ISO 100.

Glenn Nelson was a founding executive at and editor-in-chief during its first six years. More of his work, as well as background and contact information, can be found at

Click here for Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 of this series.

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