Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Lighting For Wildlife
Think about the way you illuminate your subjects to tell their story
Sidelighting takes advantage of shadows, but only when the shadows don't go to jet black. We need some solid blacks for color and sharpness. With too much black—and it's a very fine line—our soft, cuddly critters develop an evil side.
Bad Weather Light
2 You've probably heard me say, "The worst weather can make for some of the best photography." And it's true. When the weather is miserable, rainy, snowy or foggy, for example, there's no direct sunlight, so there's no one distinct lighting pattern. It's at these times that we can use color or the lack of color to make the subject pop and tell our story.
The image of the red fox asleep on the knoll, while it's snowing no less, is what I'm talking about. While I'm bundled up so only my eyes are exposed to the elements, these critters are out doing their daily thing of survival. There's just a pinch of light somewhere, so you see a tad of shadow for the smallest amount of detail, but that quality of light adds to the visual story of survival and enduring and succeeding. In this case, the environment, which is white, helps out tremendously, bouncing around what light there is and creating that wraparound light.
3 This is a very dramatic lighting pattern, but one that really stumps me the majority of the time. Being a weakness, I work at it a lot to push myself, but I don't have an amazing portfolio of examples. I can share with you the two things I've found that work. The first is realizing that black is your friend and that you should use it to emphasize the distinctive shape of your subject. I use it when I have an animal whose outline is easily recognizable; then I underexpose by at least one stop. The other is to use it when you have some element naturally bouncing light into the subject. This keeps the backlighting effect from becoming a complete silhouette.
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