We were discussing COMPOSITION, (having an interesting subject or subjects, and having a visually pleasing arrangement and presentation of the subjects in the frame).
In previous posts I gave a few basics about:
2. Perspective or View
Today I'll give you a few ideas about Lighting. Some would say that lighting isn't really part of composition, but I think it is. It's how your subject is presented, so I'm talking about lighting here. I'll start with an incredibly profound statement from Joel (see previous posts). "Good light is good, and bad light is bad." He says that a good photographer spends years honing his skills to see 'good light'. Lighting is often the least understood by beginning photogs but will make or break a picture. Often we see photos that are uninteresting yet we can't quite put our finger on why. Many times it is because the lighting is flat and boring. A good example of this is in my previous posts of the St. George Temple and that will be my example for this week as well.
I'll split lighting up into two categories and talk about taking pictures of landscapes today and pictures of people next week.
This is simple and can be summed up in two words...DAWN & DUSK!!! Now I understand that most of us aren't thinking about taking photos at dawn or dusk, but if you really want to capture a beautiful landscape scene (vista with mountains, lake, trees, ocean, etc.), this is when you must shoot. In fact, I think I'm safe in saying that probably 99.9 percent of landscape photographers do not like to shoot at any other time of day except the brief time before and at dawn and the time just before sunset, at sunset, and for a brief time after the sun goes down. (Exception to this rule is, photographers also like bad weather, rain, fog, sun and rain together, etc. And, the absolute worst weather for landscape photography is a bright sunny day at high noon!) Anyway, Dawn & Dusk produce 'magic light' that will transform your ordinary photos into memorable ones. This is a dilemma because most of us are more interested in taking pictures in the middle of the day. Well, if you are on vacation, you often have no choice and so you have to shoot when you are there; but, if you really, really want that once in a lifetime beautiful photo of the Golden Gate bridge as a remembrance of your trip to San Francisco, you'll need to get up when it's dark, (which usually means leaving your spouse sleeping peacefully and snugly in bed), and venture out to your predetermined shooting location and be ready to shoot away just as the dawn begins to break. The other alternative is to schedule your activities so you are on location and ready to shoot just before sunset. This also means that you have scouted out your subject beforehand and determined whether a sunrise or sunset shoot would work best for your composition.
If you must shoot during the middle of the day, try not to take pictures of large expanses of boring sky (unless it has big, puffy clouds or a rainbow in it)! If you are taking close ups of flowers, etc., then find subjects that are in bright shade and not in direct sunshine. Try not to shoot at noontime when the sun is directly overhead.
Additional info you probably don't need: If you own an SLR camera, and you like to shoot landscapes, water, foilage, flowers, just about anything outdoors, you absolutely, positively MUST purchase a circular polarizer filter for whatever lens you are using. After that purchase you then need to buy a few split level neutral density filters. (For anyone wanting more info on these filters, what they do, and why you must have them, leave a comment or e-mail me.)
Assignment: Find a landscape scene and take a picture at noon on a bright, sunny day. Then take another picture of the same scene either at Dawn or Dusk. Then compare the two. Notice the difference in color. Early morning pictures usually have a blue or magenta cast, while early evening pictures usually have a warm orange cast. Also notice where the shadows fall at different times of day. At noon, there are few shadows, so everything looks flat. At Dawn and Dusk when the sun is very low to the horizon, soft shadows wrap about the objects in your picture giving depth, and a 3D effect, which is more realistic and true to life. (Go back and look at the pictures of the St. George temple again, and see the difference in the details of the temple itself in the different lighting situations.)