WHEN YOU look at a photograph, it is easy to get lost in the subject matter — the colors, the composition. But in reality there is usually a lot that goes into creating an image. While the gear you use and your post-processing techniques certainly make a difference, it is the research and planning stages that often get overlooked.

Behind the camera

When going out to photograph city skylines (such as the one from Perth, Australia that you see above), one of the most important elements to consider is your perspective. With the right perspective, you could make nearly any skyline (“beautiful” or “mundane”) look good.

In order to add some additional “metropolitan like” elements into my image, I needed to find a location that allowed me to also capture the highway feeding into the city as well. Based on the recommendation from a friend, I found my location of choice in Kings Park.

Once you have found a general location, now you can use applications such TPE (The Photographers Ephemeris) to help you track the movements of the sun. Applications (IOS/Android) like this can not only show you the sun’s path but, using GPS positioning, give you a great idea of which angles might work the best for your needs. Luckily for me, the best spot for this angle of Perth turned out to be a fairly standard lookout point.

TPE

Lastly on our short list is to check the weather. For sunrise and sunset shoots, you generally want nice textured layers of clouds, but you also need the horizon to be relatively clear to allow the reflected light from the sun through. If the clouds on the horizon are too thick, no color with squeeze through and you might be left with a colorless sky.

When looking at weather reports, check for the % of clouds in the sky, as this will generally be a solid indicator. I have found that 40% to 80% cloud cover generally gives you the best chances to come away with an epic sky.

Cloud cover

Once you have done all the necessary planning, then it comes down to finding the right day and executing your plan. While things won’t work out for you every time, it is important to be prepared.

Perth, Australia