Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tech Talk Tuesday - Making the Sun Your Friend! (plus a bonus!)


A LOVE -HATE Relationship!

If you are an outdoor photographer, you probably have a love-hate relationship with the sun.  If you are a portrait photographer, you know that bright sunlight produces harsh shadows and 'raccoon' eyes on faces, and blown out high lights where you don't want them.  If you are a landscape photographer, you know that bright sunlight produces flat, lifeless images.  As a beginning photographer, you learn to avoid the sun, because more often than not, the pictures taken in the sun look like......well, they look awful, so you avoid the sun shots.

As you grow in experience, however, you learn how to control and tolerate the sun.  You try to shoot on lightly overcast or foggy days, or for landscapes, you try to shoot in the 'golden' hours with the help of polarizing filters, lens shades,  etc.  For portraits, you use scrims to block the sun, or direct its intensity away from your subject, and you look for locations to place your subjects where they are in the shade or at least out of direct sunlight.  The sun is the boss!  

And then at some point, you stand up to the sun, and and look it square in the eye....(on second thought, don't do that!).....  and say something like, I'm not going to let you bully me around any more, or force me to stop shooting during most of the daylight hours when I'm awake and want to enjoy my photography hobby!   I'm going to be bold and use you as part of my artistic canvas and I'll be the boss!  This of course means being creative and stretching yourself to think of different compositions where the sun adds to the image rather than detracts.  

When I took a portrait class last year, the instructor told us and showed us how he loves the sun and uses it to produce stunning images with spectacular high lights bouncing off the model's hair and clothes, accompanied by soft fill light to produce beautiful lighting on her face.  Ever since then I have looked at sunlight in a different way.  Yes, it is true that the hours around sunrise and sunset produce the most beautiful light possible, but that time is not the 'only show in town.'  Below are two cases where I've used the sun instead of avoiding it, and I think they both work well.  Once in a while it is fun to use sun flare instead of avoiding it, as in the first image, and creating silhouettes with unusual shapes by shooting directly into the sun, often makes for an interesting image.  Another little hint here, although these are not HDR shots, often a stunning HDR image results from placing the sun in your series of exposures.  (See below for a little bonus discussion.)
 



Here's a little bonus discussion for Tech Talk Tuesday.  Remember, I like to compose pictures that show a perspective or view that most people would miss if they were walking by the same scene as I was looking at.  This means you look at your 'subject' from all angles and points of view to find something interesting and different, that catches your attention, and will catch the attention of your viewers.  We all know about getting high and shooting down, or getting low and shooting up, but I didn't realize the concept of shooting low to the max until a few months ago when I accompanied a wedding photographer on a shoot.  Some of the most unusual and beautiful shots she took were from a very low position, angling up.  Now you may think she was sitting on the ground, or even lying on the ground.  Not so.  While standing, she bent over and held her camera at arm's length, an inch away from the ground and pointing it up to take her shots.  When you think about this, you would say, but how could she do this and look through the viewfinder or even at the LCD screen???  Well, she couldn't and didn't.  It takes practice and a ton of shots to get the subject just where she wants in the frame, but she just aimed in the general direction.  Because one doesn't often see photos from ground level, (and I mean ground level), looking almost straight up, many of her shots were fascinating.  (This would be a phun experiment to try on Phriday Phun.)  My point of view on both of these shots is unique from what most people would see, and I think it makes them more interesting.

27 comments:

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Thanks for the info.I have much to ;earn and need to hear different ideas.
Ruth

Sandra said...

I read every single word and will keep all this in mind. i am always saying we can't go there because it will be noon and the sun will wash everything out. i really like the second photo, it is like magic. i have shot from the ground like she does, but aming at toad stools and dogs NOT up at something tall. more PHUN on the way

Robin said...

Karen, great Tech Talk! Loved both the shots too! Just like a cowboy, one has to just shoot from the hip sometimes! (0r lower, if ones old legs will let you!)

darlin said...

Thank you Karen for the information, I LOVE your sun shots and I don't allow the sun to stop me, I just take more shots and hope one turns out! :-) So what you're saying for the low shots is that I no longer have to get down and get dirty? I like that and will have to give it a shot (no pun intended!).

MyMaracas said...

The sun flare is perfect for your cactus shot. I'll have to experiment with that. Thanks for the inspiration!

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

I agree to everything you wrote here. I used to avoid the sun too, but now I've learned to make use of it, though not as good as you do. What I enjoy doing, especially in winter, is to use the sun to capture the colors of light through the snow.
Thanks for keeping us informed about photo techniques.

Ginny said...

Oh gosh, that second picture is just amazing! I like to use the sun a lot, as in take pics directly into it. Unfortunately it results in blinding myself for the the evening! I try to just look through the camera and not with my bare eyes.

ρομπερτ said...

A joy for the sense of sight !


Please have a wonderful Wednesday.


daily athens

黄清华 Wong Ching Wah said...

Karen,
I like this article writing about shooting with or without the sun. The pictures "using" the sun to create those results are fantastic.
Thanks for the lesson.

Wong

bluekat said...

Stunning captures. Both really use the light for drama and effect.

A timely post for me. It seems the only time I have for photography involves the bright daylight hours, and I like learning fun techniques to use when the light is not so great.

I love getting low to the ground. This is easy with my little G11 with a view screen, a little tougher with the Nikon. I'll have to try shooting without looking, and see what I come up with.

Stacey Dawn said...

oooooh- thanks for sharing this info! I've done the low to the ground thang....but I've actually been ON the ground.... I'll have to give it a try to just bend and click!!

janc@mac.com said...

The unusual angle was one of the first techniques Cari taught me when she did photography for the Deseret News. i think about it whenever I shoot a picture. Anybody can line a picture up straight. It takes effort to get down, on top of, or up close in an unusual way. These are very interesting shots on your blog today.

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

The sun has never been a good friend to me while picture taking. All other times were best of buds. But you sure are on his good side with your photography. Both shots are great and #2 is stunning. Great post.

Avery said...

Cool cool cool cool!!
Love these shots Karen!

Costea Andrea Mihai said...

excellent works!!! good tehnique! best regards

Mersad said...

Just discovered your blog through the Picturit blog. Your work is really amazing. I am going through some of your posts here and having a blast looking at all the images and inside stories. Following now! All the best!

Picturit said...

Hi Karen interesting post, the sun can be problematic at times but it can create some dramatic images especially sillouettes. It is extremely useful when fast shutter speed are required. Some of my best insect shots were taken in harsh sunlight.

diane b said...

Thanks for the info very interesting. I have often thought it must be possible. I must go and try some. I love your examples.

Tanna at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

I am so glad you did this post about the sun! I was beginning to think there was no hope for ever having a mid-day photo! Did you use a filter of any kind? These cactus photos are stunning. Love the BLUE of the sky!

From the Kitchen said...

I've tried a few of those shots without looking into the lens and a few have been o.k.. I keep forgetting that with my new camera, I can take numerous shots in succession and that's what I need to do. As for the sun "being my friend"--where is it? Haven't seen much of old sol in weeks! Your shots are amazing. I'm just writing down the dates and subjects of your posts and plan to refer back to them a lot! Thanks so much!

Best,
Bonnie

Rebecca said...

Thanks for your comment. I love your photography and look forward to following your blog.

Barefoot from Heaven said...

Always so much to learn when I'm out here in your space. Thanks for the way of looking....
I adore your shots as usually Karen.
Hugs D.

Scott said...

Excellent points in this article. I've found that when I use the sun to my advantage is often when I get the most positive feedback on my blog posts. But it is indeed a love-hate relationship. Your photos are also excellent examples of your points.

Anne said...

Thank you so much for nice words in my blog Karen, they warmed my hart a lot :-)

Only a amateur with my camera you know, but I feel already that it has given me a new perspective on life, and it feels so good.
I do think you know what I meen.

Now I'll enjoy myself with your words and pictures here in this blog. On a late cold and dark nowegian evening.

Warm hug to you. Anne.

Anita Johnson said...

Such a great post here. I have so enjoyed your desert photos. It has been more than 30 years since my husband and I were in Saguaro National Park. These beautiful photos has made me want to plan a trip!

Cryingbear said...

the second picture is soooo great !

Lisa RedWillow said...

Incredible and Im always always learning form you . Thank you so much