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Create Better Travel Photographs by Waking Up Early

I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a “morning person”, but when I travel my alarm is almost always set to wake me up before the sun rises. Whether it’s to photograph landscapes and nature, or to walk through a less-crowded market, I always find that time is on my side when I get up early. Here are some of the reasons that I’m keen on early days for photographers:

1. You see a “different” side of the area you’re visiting

My trip to Vietnam was one of my first experiences with walking the streets of Southeast Asia. I quickly learned that the markets we (tourists and travelers) see midday are VERY different from the markets that the locals actually shop from. While in Hoi An, I decided to get up early and walk through the main streets to see what it looked like before the sun was high in the sky. I not only saw some authentic happenings in the market itself, but I was able to find gorgeous compositions on things as simple as the walls of the buildings! In fact, I couldn’t even locate this spot a few hours later; the streets were so packed with souvenir shops, tourists, and motorbikes, that it was covered beyond recognition.

2. Fewer Tourists and More Locals

When we travel, we are all tourists. I consider myself more of a “traveler,” and I like to think that some of us have different ideas about traveling: we want to see the true heart of where we are visiting. Everywhere in the world the locals go about their business in the morning, and the tourists don’t usually make an appearance until 10am, after sleeping in and having breakfast. If you’re okay with losing a few hours of sleep and having breakfast after a morning stroll, then you’ll definitely get better photos because of it.

3. Beautiful Light

It goes without saying that the light is almost always going to be better first thing in the morning than it is midday. The color, glow, and softness of the morning sun just can’t be beat. Sure, you can photograph the sunset and get beautiful light, but I always find it easier to work with morning light so that I can also take advantage of the other “early” opportunities mentioned in this article.

4. Killer Shadows

Morning light is gorgeous, and so are the shadows it creates! The sun sitting low on the horizon is a great opportunity for some amazing composition and play with shadows.

5. Dramatic Atmospheric Conditions

We rarely see fog midday, since the sun tends to burn it off pretty fast once it starts to make an appearance. Getting up early gives you a better chance of adding some drama to your images. And, if you’re in a place that is typically hot and muggy, you may even have a chance to cool off and not melt when you’re trying to get those beautiful, dramatic photographs!

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