I try to improve my processes on a daily basis. This includes my compositions, my vision, my post processing, my marketing, I could go on and on. So to help my audience create better photographs and improve their processes, this week's quick tip to improve your photography is one that will get you better pictures almost instantly. Wait until the sun goes down or photograph before the sun comes up. Granted there is great light before the sun sets or rises but most often the best light is 10-20 minutes before the sun comes up and 10-20 minutes after the sun sets. Why? The contrast of the scene is dramatically reduced. It's like using a giant softbox on the landscape.
Once the sun sets and the angle at which it does, the sun lights up the clouds in an array of color. Not only does the clouds light up in magnificent oranges and pinks, but the mostly blue sky will show hints of other colors. Most often purple. These times of day provide the best color.
The exposure difference between the foreground and sky will be dramatically reduced. Since the bright sun is set below the horizon, the sky will be darker allowing you to pull more detail from the shadows. With todays editing software, no filters are usually required.
The image below was taken 5 minutes after the sun set. The camera's sensor still picks up the light very well, making it feel as if the sun is still up, but I assure you it was not.