Regular readers of the Outdoor Photographer Tip of the Week have seen my photographic mantra a number of times. If you’ve attended any of my workshops you repeatedly heard the words. With this in mind and to not beat it to death but, “It’s All About The Light.” I’ll never stop professing this. For me, light is the key ingredient that makes or breaks a photo. A mundane subject in great light will produce a far superior photo to a great subject in terrible light. This being said, the sooner you learn to read the light and use it to your advantage, the sooner you’ll see your photos improve exponentially. Be this as it may, here are a few tips to help you capture different types of light that are some of my favorites.
Storm Light: While crystal clear sunrises certainly have their advantages, and in some cases they’re essential, there’s nothing that compares to the dramatic light associated with storms. Often very short lived, when it happens, it’s magical. Storm light most frequently provides great results when the storm is impending or receding. It’s at the edge of the storm that the sun has the potential to break free from the clouds. Ultimately you want the sky behind the main subject to remain dark and ominous with a spotlight of sun illuminating it. This results in a 3D effect as the primary focal point comes forward from the darkness. The effect is most pronounced when this comes together near sunrise and sunset hours. Monitor the weather. Anytime the forecast calls for a storm system to arrive or depart at these times of day, grab the camera and head to your favorite location. While it doesn’t guarantee it will happen, when it does, you’ll be grateful you were there for the magical moment.
Make It Pop: Take a look at the shot of the lotus flower that accompanies this article. Whenever a situation arises where a light colored subject can be offset against a dark background, the subject pops off the page. It’s all about contrast. The stronger the contrast, the more the image pops. Flat lighting lacks contrast, hence its descriptor - flat. If contrast is introduced, the image becomes more three dimensional. A caveat with which one must deal are bright highlights in the background that create distractions. While Photoshop can assist you in darkening them, if there are too many, it may be wise to move onto the next location.
Rise and Set: Mid day light is reserved for the tourists. Sunrise and sunset are for the photographers. While this doesn’t always hold true, it certainly is a rule by which I plan my photography. Regardless of the subject matter, when the primary elements are bathed in the golden tones of sunrise and sunset, they come alive and take on a warmth that can only be provided at these times of day. It also has to do with the angle of light which provides shadows and highlights. When it’s low on the horizon, it doesn’t last long. Shooting in the winter months increases the window of time as the sun rides along the horizon for greater lengths than it does in the summer. If you haven’t done a lot of photography at these times of day, you owe it to yourself to get out there and do it.