Friday, March 7, 2014

Daylight Savings Time and your Digital Camera

Paris, Musée d'Orsay, architect Victor Laloux's (1898-1900) clock at the front end of main hall.In most locations of North America, we are about to reset our clocks, moving the time forward one hour, in the “wee” hours of the morning, on Sunday, March 9th, to begin “Daylight Saving Time,” or “Daylight Time.” In some parts of North America, such as the states of Arizona (except for the Navajo Nation lands there) and Hawaii in the US, and most of Saskatchewan in Canada, “Daylight Time” isn't used. They stay on “Standard Time” throughout the year.

North America isn't alone in the world moving it's time forward in the spring and back in the fall. Across the globe, 79 nations use “Daylight Time” in at least part of their country. The Falkland Islands stay on “Daylight Time” throughout the year. Most countries on Earth, 159 at this time, remain in “Standard Time” all year.

For those countries which use “Daylight Time,” the date on which “Daylight Time” starts and ends varies from country to country, set by government regulation or law. It also varies according to which hemisphere each country is located, north or south.

Since photography began, photographers have always been cognizant of the time of day, both because it can dramatically affect their work, both outdoors and inside, and for image documentation.
I hear the question, “When is the best time of day to shoot?” often. The answer is, of course, every time of the day is the “best” time to make photographs, as the light at these times can each set a particular mood, feeling, or tone, giving an opportunity to show the same scene in far different, and multiple “lights.”

While light varies throughout the year, and is affected by one's location (As we approach the north and south poles, according to the time of year, while the intensity of daylight or darkness, will change throughout each day, those changes may be diminished compared to locations at latitudes further from the poles. Last summer while photographing in the Arctic, just a few hundred miles from the North Pole, we barely had any darkness at all, each day.), the significant light changes during each the day, generally surpasses the time of year and location in impacting photographs.

In order to know when the different times of the day will occur, photographers must be cognizant of the clock.

While keeping track of time, we can use tables, formulas and equations to determine times to be photographing during the most interesting parts of the day, to utilize their effects of light on our subjects. Photographers can use such times as dawn, sunrise, morning, midday, afternoon, sunset, dusk, and evening lighted with artificial light, to tell their subjects' story well. Even inside, when photographing a person near windows, for example, those times of the day will affect both the exposure and mood of the photograph.

Photo documentation is also dependent upon time. Crime scene investigators aren't the only ones for whom “time stamping” their photographs is important. For photo journalists, knowing when an image was made can be critical too. For example, it differentiates between a series of photos of an event taking place, which in turn, helps tell the story of the event. Sports photographers, for example, need to be able to tell if that touchdown, home run, or ball or puck entering a goal, in an image, is the winning score of a game. Among “time stamp” uses, travel photographers utilize are, to help them create tour series images, keep track of locations photographed, and keep their images synced with their GPS, if they utilize one.

Years ago, before digital photography was the norm for professional and amateur photographers alike, many photographers kept notebooks documenting their images as they were made, which included time.

With today's digital cameras, time documentation is automatically accomplished for us by the camera's date/time module, with the time each photo is made, embedded in each image's metadata. That presupposes, of course, the photographer has set the clock in the camera, and set it accurately.

As we come to a change from “Standard Time” to “Daylight Time,” photographers need to remember to change the time in their digital camera when they change the clocks in their home and office. When it's time to change back to “Standard Time” they need to remember to change their digital camera's clock again.
Hint: Put both the start and finish of “Daylight Time” on your appointment calendar, with a specific reminder to change the time in your digital camera.
For travel photographers, you have an addition time consideration, which you should keep in mind during your domestic and international touring. Whenever you change to a new time zone, make sure you adjust your digital camera to take the new time zone into account.
Hint: When traveling, keep a detailed itinerary with you, and make time zone change notations on it, to remind you to update your camera, with each time zone change.
Even if your location stays at “Standard Time”, ensuring your digital camera's clock is properly set is a good idea to periodically check.


Paul Higgins said...

Rather than having to remember time zones and changes to/from "Standard Time," I just leave my cameras all on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), aka Greenwich Mean Time. I don't remember where I got that tip, but it's made things simpler for me.

Ned S. Levi said...

That's an interesting approach, but for those of us who use GPS units, it doesn't work because of sync problems that the GPS puts in one time, and the camera another.

I keep logs of where I shoot as a travel photographer, and note the time of day I shoot in a particular area, location, building, etc. I think I'll stick to the more traditional approach of putting in the real time so I can more easily use my logs, which are my defacto shooting diary. (I use my iPhone to keep the diary.)

I also keep an overall travel diary of my trips because you can never actually remember all the important details for review later. That's time stamped too.

There are lots of choices we all make. We just need to use what works best for ourselves.

Thanks for your readership.

Frank - Phila. said...

Thanks for the reminder. I updated yesterday.

Sally-Oakland said...

I like putting in local time where I am than UTC time, which is what I used to do, then convert the time in postprocessing. I decided that was an extra step I didn't need to do. I do wish the cameras did record the time zone in the exif data via an offset number, but the don't, or at least my camera's don't. It would be a simple matter to do so, since I set my time zone in the camera to change the clock to where I am at the time.

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