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I can’t get enough of back-lighting. Back-lighting can be used to create magical images (especially at sunrise or sunset when the light is a rich golden color), and it works great for both wildlife and landscape images alike. Although some photographers live by the maxim “shoot with the sun at your back,” I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to do the exact opposite. Back-lighting presents some unique technical challenges, but the results are well worth the effort.
Flare is a significant challenge when working with back-lit subjects. To prevent flare, shade your lens with a lens hood or your hand. This stops stray light from striking the lens, creating the dreaded “hexagons” which can ruin an image. Sometimes, however, a little bit of flare can be a good thing. Weak flare, instead of creating hexagons, can reduce contract and create an overall warmth to the scene, which for some subjects can be very pleasing. You should feel free to experiment between fully shading your lens, partially shading it, and not shading it at all. Use your camera’s LCD screen to assess the results, and pick the method that is the most to your liking for your particular scene.
Exposure can also be tricky, as back-lit scenes often have excessive contrast. The edges of back-lit subjects tend to glow with light, and often it is difficult keeping these glowing areas from being overexposed. If such is the case, no worries—if just the very edges are overexposed, it won’t detract from the overall image in the least. Set your exposure to ensure that mid-tone and any important shadow areas have sufficient exposure. Back-lighting often works best if you have a dark background.
Back-lighting is a fun way of easily bringing your nature subjects to life. Always be on the lookout for chances to take advantage of this magical natural light.
P.S. I’ve just gotten back from a two-week trip to Mt. Rainier and some of the surrounding areas, and I’m starting to post images from the trip on my personal photoblog. Feel free to check out my first image from the trip, a shot of Mt. Rainier at sunrise.
Chasing the Light: Essential Tips for Taking Great Landscape Photos: My downloadable PDF eBook filled with informative text, stunning full-color images, and plenty of insights and inspiration.
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