Sunrise vs. sunset
(or eight solid reasons why you should forget about both)*

There are way too many "vs." issues in photography. Despite their complexity, however, I have always shot with Nikon instead of Canon, photographed and scanned in 16–bit instead of 8–bit mode, as well as printed with Epson instead of Canon (what, Canon again?) printers. The only issue that has always left me fundamentally confused, though, is the one of sunrise vs. sunset. Having photographed enough of both, I think I can finally compare and advise upon their relative merits:

  • Some subjects can be photographed equally well at both sunrise and sunset; due to the peculiarities of geography, however, others can only be captured when the sun is about to move to the flip side of the Earth or when it has just emerged from oblivion. The former is easy and most people will not even notice or think about the difference in lighting; the latter requires intimate knowledge of the place. Choose between being a dilettante and making an effort.

  • If you intend to photograph at sunrise you will have to skip a few hours of sweet sleep. Sunset photography, on the other hand, will inevitably necessitate missing dinner and drinks with your friends and/or family. Which of the two evils to choose is up to you (but your physician and/or psychiatrist will most certainly advise against either).

  • Photographing at sunrise often means walking in complete darkness prior to the shoot; making images at sunset implies treading carefully after the job is done. Which one do you prefer: breaking your neck before the shoot or after? Regretting not even having witnessed or having witnessed but not manifested?

  • Towards the end of the day heat, dust, moist and whatever not tend to accumulate and mix up in the lower atmosphere. This often leads to light shifting to the red end of the spectrum and results in warmer colours, which is great for photography. But do you really want to be out there breathing in all that pollution? The air is usually much better at sunrise, but then the light tends to be bluer—would you really be interested in duller colours?

  • At sunrise you mainly encounter other photographers who leave no space for your tripod; at sunset you primarily have to deal with tourists who are constantly jumping in front of your camera. It takes way too much trouble to get to places where there are none.

  • Focal lengths, as well as perspective, are perceived differently early in the morning and late at night. Oh, you still have not noticed and learned the differences?

  • Cameras (as well as lenses and other crucial equipment) of different brands interpret sunrise and sunset differently, too—you have to make up your mind on the Nikon vs. Canon, Gitzo vs. Manfrotto, etc. issues before you even contemplate photographing at such ungodly hours.

  • If, like Ansel Adams, you rely on a horse to carry your equipment in the field, you have to account for the differences in the horse's mood in the morning and in the evening (not to mention her eating and sleeping habits).

As you might have already guessed, the best idea is to forget about both sunrise and sunset and photograph at midday, when the light is clear–cut, everybody is having lunch, and your horse is asleep. Alternatively, you might consider quitting (landscape, at least) photography for good. If, however, you have read this far, are still not convinced and find one or two reasons for not letting go, then you probably already know that the real answer to the sunrise vs. sunset issue is that, whenever possible, you should not miss either of them. Ever. Me? I will indiscriminatingly take either sunrise or sunset on any day of the year, as many as fate can possibly give me.

*Satire alert (or, as they say, every joke is partly a joke).