Friday, June 19, 2015

Trying to Make the Best of a Bad Situation

The earlier or later in the day you take pictures, the more important the position of the sun becomes to your photographs. Photographing outdoors is at its best in the "golden" hours near dawn and dusk — although the time is not actually an "hour" but a period.

Having the sun at your back means the subject out in front of you will benefit from an abundance of sunlight and few shadows. Facing into the sun, on the other hand, means fighting the high contrast of a well-lit background and a subject in shadows. Photographing a subject with highly reflective water only makes it that much more challenging.

By embracing the problem of shadows in the first image, I was able to create something more memorable perhaps than if I had tried to overcome the shadows. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when using this technique. You want the silhouette to be recognizable so, based on the subject, you'll want to consider the angle that best accomplishes that. Perhaps you may have to wait for the subject to simply turn slightly. Another point to keep in mind is that an animal's fur or feathers can further enhance a photo by creating an interesting rim light.

The second photo represents an attempt to do the opposite; to open up or reveal the parts of the image that were in shadow. Whether the background is set against the sky or water the result will be the same: the obliteration of any detail in the brightest parts of the image. In this image, I liked the "each duck is an island" type effect it had.

By waiting for the ducks to move away from alignment with the sun, the contrast lessens and details in the water and reflections can be incorporated into the image. These photos were all taken at the marsh outside North Beach on the same early morning, a period when birds and other animals are more active. Unfortunately, the park the town built is on the wrong side of the marsh for good early morning photography since you are facing into the sun.

Conditions improve as you turn away and the angle between the sun and your subject increases. This photograph was taken with the sun closer to ninety degrees to my left increasing the options for what can be done with the light. Here, what cannot be seen actually increases the interest of the image in the same way as saying what something is not also informs you about what something is.

Here is another photograph from the same morning where I was able to take advantage of cross lighting to capture an image of a male Downy Woodpecker in a more environmental type shot. The bird doesn't always have to fill the frame. Sometimes showing more of the environment yields a more interesting image. Lighting conditions even allowed me to render the sky as blue rather than a blown out white. A glint in the eye also makes an animal appear more alive.

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