15/11/2006

Making Light Work


Do you look at some of your outdoor photos and wish they had a little more oomph, or impact?
Do you wish you could produce images like those of the professionals who take those stunning landscape shots? (me too!)
Your outdoor photography can vastly improve, if you're willing to get out there, when the light conditions are at their best.
That usually means dragging your self up, very early in the morning, from within the comfort of your warm, cosy bed, out into the twilight of the frosty pre-dawn.
Enough of the dramatics! But a good knowledge of when the "time is right" will certainly help you improve on your photo technique.
Like an artist makes or produces a painting, so too the photographer must make an image, by using the photographic elements he has at his disposal to produce an image in colour, or black and white, but if you don't utilise and take advantage of the magical properties that the "right light" can give, you cannot expect to produce that professional style image.
To understand what this is all about, firstly, grab your camera (and tripod, if necessary) and go out into your garden , or somewhere within walking distance, then with your "seeing eyes", choose a subject which takes your fancy.
Whatever it is, it must be facing an easterly direction and it must be capable of receiving those very early rays of sunlight at dawn. If you are unsure of where the sun will rise, a compass might help.
Take a few different shots of your subject, as you see it now.
The next morning, in the twilight time before sunrise, providing it's not too overcast, go out with your camera (and tripod) again, to the place where your chosen subject is.
Start taking shots of your subject just as the first rays of sunlight begin to touch its surface.
Take as many shots as you can over the next 10 to 15 minutes, each time varying your viewpoint and angle of view.
This exercise is perfect for those (and me!), who can interact their camera with their PC, because you can see the results almost instantaneously.
Compare these new images with the ones you had taken the day before. There should be a noticeable difference!
Because the light approaches your subject on a more direct angle, there are less shadows. The subject also appears sharper and takes on a warmer look, with more saturated (stronger) colours.
Now select another subject. This time one which faces either a northerly or southerly direction, and do the same exercise.
The surprising result here will be fairly similar, but there will be shadows formed across the surface, from either left or right, depending on which direction your subject faces.
You will notice in the resulting images, the almost 3D effect, which has occurred due to the angle at which the light has struck the object's surface. And see how the surface texture is so much more exaggerated.
A similar exercise could be done in the late afternoon to early evening and even during the time just after the sun has set, but whilst the sun is setting, look around, don't miss a moment of what is happening all around you.
Another fascinating time is when there has been a late afternoon storm, clearing from the West and the sun just starts to appear from under the heavy cloud. It suddenly lights up the land with a magical light and everything all around is shrouded in an eerie light and all is crisp and clear.
Even on a heavily overcast day, every now and then, the sun will peep through a chink in the cloud to light up a hillside, or building, with its bewitching rays of light.
One thing for certain, is that these lighting opportunities won't wait for you to come to them, so you have to be there in readiness for when they occur.
So, when those power walkers and joggers go streaking past you in those early hours, you'll be sorting out the men from the boys with the great new images you will now be producing.

Footnote:
These exercises will also assist you in the "Art of Seeing"