Every professional photographer knows that the best time to take pictures is the first two hours of the day and the last two hours of the day.
The light of sunrise is warm and soft. Shadows are not as intense, but, they are long. The morning paints foliage with the look of gold lace that is unparalleled –especially when everything is dew-laden.
Evening brings long shadows and softening contrast. Depending on atmospheric conditions sunsets can give you spectacular shades of yellow, red, orange, and purple. The best light can be captured just after the sun dips below the horizon. Before that, honestly, I don’t see a reason to click the shutter.
Midday sun is harsh. Extreme contrast makes it hard to photograph rocks and other reflective surfaces. Some animals are almost impossible to shoot at that time because of blow-out. That is when bright sunlight washes out highlights so that all you see in your images is intense glare. It is almost impossible to correct without under-exposing everything else.
It was hard enough fighting glare with film, but, digital cameras still do not have enough color latitude. They have greater dynamic range, but, blow-out can destroy an otherwise beautiful image. Polarized filters can help, but, midday sun will be a challenge that can be avoided with good planning.
One other thing you must consider is the habits of your subject. Deer, for example, are most active in the early morning and late evening. Birds feed frequently, but, they are constantly on the move. Squirrels feed mostly in the morning and a bit toward evening, but, they are active longer than deer, so, shoot deer first and turn to squirrels before you break for the morning. Sunrise, and the following hour is when most animals are still moving around and offers you the best photo opportunities.
I had a red fox cross the road ahead of my car one morning on my way to the office. I did not have my camera with me, but, I made note of the place and time. That fox was not far from its den, I’d bet on it. I can look for it another day. Maybe I’ll be able to get some good images.
Start your day before the sun and be ready to shoot at first light. Break in mid morning and return for the evening shoot. Midday is the time for editing and image management.