Digital Camera World - Complete Photography Guide - Mastering Light

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  • How to control and enhance natural light Creative ways to shoot with fl ash Simple techniques for spectacular results


    Complete photography guide



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    Many photographers just starting out tend to think of the role of light only in terms of exposure. But fi nding the best light and learning how to control it can have a huge effect on the emotional impact of your images. This book will arm you with the knowledge and techniques you need to really begin mastering light.

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  • MasterLight


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    Lights character p10

    Chasing the light p14

    Improving the quality p16

    Master of light: Charlie Waite p22

    Fill-in with fl ash p24

    Master of light: Chris Johns p28

    Dealing with low light p30

    Light on the landscape p36

    Master of light: George D. Lepp p46

    Top 10 tips p49


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  • 8 Light

    Our three previous photography guides have covered composition, exposure and colour now its time to look at the element which is the key infl uence for all three aspects. As a photographer, you need to learn to love light, appreciate its endless subtleties and try to make the most of its mood swings. Soon youll feel your heart race a little faster as the black clouds of a passing storm tear apart and rich, golden light burns through to transform even the most mundane scene (just dont forget to carry your camera at all times youll kick yourself if you miss capturing such an event). Dont pull your hair out if the light isnt right though. You just need to learn a few tricks that can help you rescue the situation this book will show you them. Well give you ideas for taming harsh light, show you how to make the most of falling light levels and how to use fl ash in understated ways. We dont cover studio lighting in this book that will come later. Instead, we focus on natural light how to capture it, how to enhance and how to use it in great new ways.

    Marcus HawkinsEditor, Digital Camera Magazine

    Start painting with light

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  • 10 Light

    You really begin to grow as a photographer when you start being able to read the different characteristics of light and are able to adjust your shooting accordingly. Where photographys concerned, there are four elements of light that you need to be able to recognise: its quality, colour, intensity and direction. You can control each of them to a certain degree, whether its through a shift in camera position, the use of light modifi ers or during image processing.

    Lights character

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    Quality of lightYou can judge the quality of light by the shadows it creates. Hard lighting from the sun on a cloudless summers day or an undiffused fl ashgun creates inky, sharp-edged shadows and hot highlights. Your camera will struggle to maintain detail in both, and compromises might have to be taken. Soft light early morning, late evening, a cloudy day, a misty day reduces the contrast between light and dark and produces soft-edged shadows in which details still visible. Its ideal for portraits, close-ups and revealing the glorious colours of autumn. You can improve the quality of light to some degree on a small scale using diffusors, refl ectors, fi ll-fl ash and the like (youll fi nd tips and techniques for doing just that throughout this guide), but theres very little you can do other than wait for the very best light when youre shooting landscapes.

    Colour of lightWe covered the colour of light comprehensively in the previous guide, but its such an important ingredient for creating images with emotional impact that we couldnt leave it out here. In general, warmer pictures produce a more pleasurable viewing experience. Colder pictures can leave use feeling exactly that. Fortunately, its one of the easiest elements of light to correct. You can change your cameras white balance setting to enhance or reduce the warmth of a scene. You can place colour correction fi lters in front of your lens blue to cool down a scene, amber to warm it up. Or you can simply wait until youre back home editing your images on your computer before you start changing the colour balance of your picture.

    The sun rising or setting creates long shadows plan for them when you

    compose an image. Here, an ordinary locations been transformed by the play of light and shadow, creating a simple, powerful photograph.

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  • 12 Light

    Intensity of lightPerhaps not as important in enhancing the mood of a shot as the other characteristics of light, intensity, or brightness has a crucial role to play in terms of exposure. The more light there is available, the smaller your aperture can be and yet still retain action-stopping shutter speeds. Your ISO can also be set lower so theres the potential to create a higher quality image. The more intense and hard the light is, though, the more chance there is of highlights getting blown in a digital image. Check your cameras histogram an image on an LCD monitor might seem brighter or darker than it actually is.

    Direction of lightLight can illuminate your subject from three basic directions front, side and back. Each brings its own unique feel to a picture. Backlighting, for instance, can be used to provide a halo around a portrait sitter. It provides mood, drama and visual interest. It brings foliage to life and gives water an edge. The only thing to watch out for is direct light striking the front of the lens. This produces fl are, which reduces contrast. You might fi nd a lens hood particularly on a wideangle lens doesnt always prevent fl are. In these instances, move a piece of card or your hand close to the front of the lens to shade it from the light (just be sure that it doesnt appear in the frame). Sidelighting is great for bringing out the texture in a landscape. It reveals shape and form and gives pictures depth. Frontlighting is good for close-up portraits, particularly of birds and animals. It might not have the impact of backlighting or sidelighting, but dont limit yourself just to these.

    Backlighting can enhance mood. This shot wouldnt be as atmospheric

    if shot from the other side of thesubject, with full frontlighting.

    Early morning light is usually less intense than that of the sun at

    midday. Youll need to work with wider apertures in order to freeze movement.

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  • 14 Light

    Once you start getting a feel for light, youll search out the times of day where the quality of light is generally at its best at the start and end of the day during the golden hours. The suns rays have to pass through more of the atmosphere during sunrise and sunset. This fi lters out more of the wavelengths at the blue end of the colour spectrum, leaving us to see wavelengths at the warmer end. This is why the light has a colder quality at midday, when the sun is directly overhead and passing through a much thinner part of the atmosphere. A sunset tends to produce a richer, warmer image than a sunrise because atmospheric pollutions builtup throughout the day, scattering the lightstill further. Sunsets and sunrises are probably the most cliched photographic subjectsknown to man but dont resist capturing atruly breathtaking one when the moment presents itself.

    Chasing the light

    You sunset shots dont have to be cliched skyscapes try incorporating

    the orb in unusual ways

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    Get there earlyMany photographers prefer shooting at dawn that way theyre not fi ghting against falling light levels as they would be at the end of the day. Lakes and rivers also tend to be more still at this time of the day perfect for capturing refl ections. Early morning light can have more of a sharper, clearer quality than at sunset and shadows tend to creep on you rather fast at the end of the day. For those of us holding down a day job, its unlikely that we can escape work commitments to catch the sunset on a regular basis but getting up early and getting out before the sun rises can be an option. You need to make sure youre in position and ready to start shooting before the sun actually clips the horizon though, as the magic light only lasts for a few minutes. Dont include the suns bright orb in your frame when youre metering its likely to cause severe underexposure in your shot. Instead, take a spot meter reading from a bright area of sky, lock the reading in and recompose with the sun back in the frame. Bracket exposures at +/- 0.5EV around thisinitial exposure.

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  • 16 Light

    Close-up shots such as this collection of autumn leaves always benefi t from soft,

    diffused light although when water drops are present, experiment with sidelighting

    Do you want hard or soft light? Both types have their purpose in photography. If its striking, graphic shots with black, hard-edged shadows you want, seek out raw, hard light when the suns high in a clear sky or youre shooting with on-camera fl ash. Chances are, though, that youll want soft, diffused light more often than not. On a bright, cloudy day, the sky acts like a giant softbox. Youll have a much easier time metering for a scene as the contrast will have been reduced no deep shadows or bright highlights to try and rectify later on your computer. Youll be able to reveal much fi ner detail, and colour appears more saturated.

    Improvingthe quality

    Soften hard lightThe reason hard lights are exactly that, is because theyre a point-source of light relative to the size of the subject of your photograph, resulting in unbalanced exposures. The suns big, but so far away that, on a cloudless day it too becomes a small, harsh light source. But it can be softened to produce a much more fl attering result. Commercial diffusion panels are available thin pieces of semi-transparent material which, when held between the sun and the subject, spread and soften the light, removing glaring highlights and opening up the detail in shadows. Try using a sheet of tracing paper for macro subjects. When youre working with small subjects using a macro lens, a fl ashgun held close to them effectively becomes a large softbox relative to their size (particularly when its fi tted with its own diffusor)..

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    Use a refl ectorDiffusors are particularly suited to closer-up and macro work, as therell be room to place them between the light source and the subject without them appearing in the frame. If youre dealing with a larger subject, particularly outdoors, youll probably want to reach for a fl ashgun or a refl ector. Refl ectors provide the more natural-looking results of the two (they only make use of the ambient light, after all) and theyre much easier to use you can see results live (no need to take a test shot, check the cameras LCD monitor and adjust output, as youll more than likely have to do with fl ash). You can use small refl ectors to bounce light precisely where you want it, or use a large one to fi ll in detail on a much grander scale.

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    18 Light

    Refl ector optionsThere are many commercially available refl ectors, ranging in size, colour and price a simple 12 one is likely to set you back around 10, while something in the region of 6x4 is unlikely to leave you with much change from 100. Despite their cost, these types of refl ectors have several advantages. Theyre hard-wearing and portable, with the circular collapsible variety folding up into something approaching a quarter of their full size. Theyre also available in double-sided variations, the classic combination being white on one side, gold on the other. White retains the colour of the natural light, while the likes of silver, gold and varying combinations of both all add their own particular colour. Silver can bring a fresh sparkle to a picture, particularly a portrait, while gold can warm up skin tones well. Just dont overdo the gold try using it when shooting on a beach, as thats where viewers would expect to see golden light refl ected by the sand


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    Theres no need to spend a fortuneIf you cant afford a good quality refl ector, or you simply want to supplement your current set-up, why not make your own? The simplest sort is a sheet of plain white card. This will provide a soft, even illumination for the surface youre bouncing light onto. For a sharper, cleaner quality to the light, reach for

    aluminium foil. Simply crinkle it up into a ball, uncrinkle it, and stick it

    to a piece of card. If you dont make the surface wrinkled, youll end up

    with a big, hard slice of refl ected light that feels artifi cial to the viewer. This

    might be exactly the effect youre after though. A small mirror provides an even more

    crisp, directional source of bounced light it can be useful for isolating details in a graphic way in

    a large shot, or for really adding punch to a macro shot.

    Find a natural refl ectorIf you fi nd yourself in a situation where you dont have a refl ector close to hand, look for an alternative source of refl ected light. An open book or newspaper positioned close to the face of a sitter can make a simple alternative. If youre on a beach, get your subject close to the sand, which bounces back a surprising amount of light (if you can fi nd a white beach towel, even better). The cold light refl ected by snow in winter can provide excellent fi ll light, while the rippling surface of a river, stream or pool, full of catchlights on a sunny day, provides a beautiful quality of illumination. Be aware of your camera reading for bright backgrounds though it could be fooled into underexposing the scene. Its better to get in close to your subject and take a reading from them directly. Remember to increase the exposure for pale skin and decrease it for dark skin.

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    How to brighten up a faceA portrait shoots the classic situation for using a refl ector, particularly when its outdoors on a clear, bright day where, if you cant fi nd an area of shade in which your subject can stand, youll have to deal with high contrast lighting. The golden rule is dont position your subject where they face directly into bright sunlight theyll end up squinting, which isnt fl attering. Instead, pose them so that the lights coming from over their shoulder or from an angle to the side and use a refl ector to bounce light back into the darker areas. Your subject will thank you if

    you can get rid of any ugly shadowing on their face. Areas to pay particular attention to are around the eyes and nose and under the chin. Wrinkles and imperfect skin will also be exaggerated by strong sidelighting placing a refl ector close to the opposite side of the subjects face will remove even the smallest shadows. A refl ector placed low will also bounce light under the brims of caps and hats you risk burning out the detail in well lit areas of a subject wearing headgear if you simply try to increase the exposure to open up the shadows instead. On a bright

    day, youll be surprised how much light canbe directed back onto your subject usingeven the simplest refl ector. Dont be afraidto use more than one either (try one angled to each side, plus one below the subject) but ensure you dont cause your sitter to squint by bouncing sunlight straight intotheir eyes. As well as providing a more fl attering illumination, the increase in light levels also means you can take advantage of higher shutter speeds, and consequently smaller apertures. The result? Portraits with a deeper fi eld of focus, sharp from nose-tip to ear.

    Take advantage of natural refl ectors. A white door (off-camera) was used for the left shot, and a pale fl oor and book inthis one.

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  • Light 21

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  • 22 Light

    C harlie is the most admired landscape photographer in Britain today. His mastery of light and composition is clear from every one of his exquisite frames. The name of the photographic holiday workshop company he set up 11 years ago Light & Land fi ts like a glove. He hasnt always been a professional landscape photographer though. Originally an actor, he began taking pictures of other actors and theatrical productions in 1977. Just four years later he was commissioned to provide all the images for the National Trust book of Long Walks. Since then, there have been over twenty books featuring his stunning images, numerous exhibitions and tours all over the world. Everyone who wants to know how to lift their landscape images above the norm needs a copy of Charlies The Making of Landscape Photographs in their book collection.

    Master oflightCharlie Waite

    22 Light

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    This photograph of the River Esera, Huesca, Spain was exposed at ISO 50, for 1/8th

    sec at f/16. Charlie attached two fi lters a polariser and 81A warm-up to the wideangle lens on his trusted Hasselblad. The contrast of light and shadow gives this shot a real three-dimensional quality. Taken as the sun was setting, Charlie had to race against time in a matter of minutes there would be no light in the left of the frame, the bushes there would lose their glow, and the whole composition would have lost its balance.

    To learn more about Charlie Waite, pay a visit to

    Light 23

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  • 24 Light

    A lthough it doesnt soften the quality of harsh midday light, a burst of fi ll fl ash can open up shadows to provide a more pleasing, balanced exposure. The key to making natural-looking shots is to ensure the fi ll-in light is subtle. You dont want the artifi cial light to overpower the natural light it shouldnt be obvious that youve used it. The idea is to expose for the highlights if theres time, switch to spot-metering for precise measurement, but be aware of the tone of the area youre metering from (youll need to add a little more exposure if the subjects lighter than mid-tone, for instance). You then let the fl ash pop some life back into the dark areas. Todays fl ashes are generally very advanced with effective automatic fi ll-in modes. However, for the most part they tend to produce an obviously fl ashed look, with shadows brought up to a similar exposure level as the lighter areas. Try reducing the output further for a more natural result

    Fill-in with fl ash

    The fi rst of these shots was taken without any fi ll-in fl ash. The image

    is dull. The second shot shows what happens when you shoot in automatic

    fi ll-fl ash mode the shadows havebeen brought up to a similar level as

    the lighter areas. It looks a bit hot

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    Set up a testIts worth doing your own run of test shots to begin understanding how your fl ash will react in different lighting situations. First, get hold of a white subject, a dark subject and mid-tone subject (visit your local toy shop and pick up some soft toys theyre ideal). Head outside on a clear day, position each one in turn within fl ash range and fi re off a set of frames, changing the fl ash exposure each time (make sure you allow time for your fl ash to fully recharge between shots). Start with a regular fl ash exposure, then decrease its output gradually over the next four or fi ve frames, until you reach -2EV. Do this for each of the three subjects, making sure the ambient lighting conditions are consistent throughout. You can then simply look at the shots on your computer to determine what atio of fi ll-in fl ash you prefer for that given lighting condition.In this shot, we reduced the

    normal fl ash output by 1.7EV. This has provided a subtle amount of fi ll-in

    light. Shadows have been retained,but theres detail in them

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  • 26 Light

    Shoot into the sunAutomatic balanced fi ll-in modes on fl ashes come into their own when youre shooting into the sun. Here, you dont want the fi ll-in light to be too subtle, or youll end up with an underexposed main subject. A well-balanced fl ash-lit portrait taken against a clear blue sky can look stunning, for instance. Its also worth seeking out a situation where you can isolate a backlit person against a shadowy area their rimlit hair and skin will appear to glow against the dark background (be wary of the camera being tricked into overexposure by such a backdrop), while the burst of fl ash brings the exposure on the face and body in shadow back to the correct level. To achieve more of a surreal quality in an outdoor shot, try underexposing the ambient light (spot meter a mid-tone in the background and reduce the exposure by 0.7EV to 1EV as starting point). This will make your fl ash-exposed foreground subject pop from its surroundings..

    The combination of lighting from two directions lifts this shot. Watch

    out for overexposure on pale skin tones when the sitters wearing black clothes.

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  • Light 27

    Boost an interiorThe main problem youll encounter when it comes to shooting interior shots is the mixture of light thats usually present. Depending on the location, you could end up with fl uorescent, tungsten, daylight and fl ash providing an intriguing mix of green, orange and blue light (depending on your selection of white balance). You might like this effect though. There again, you might want to produce a more natural blend of fl ash-lit foreground subject and a background lit by tungsten or fl uorescent lighting. In this case, youll need to place a strip of orange warming gel (for tungsten) or green gel (for fl uorescent) over your fl ash. You can then select the matched white balance preset on the camera and both light sources will be corrected at the same time.

    To help fl ash blend in well with such a warm scene, place a piece of

    orange colour-correcting fi lm over the front of it. Any white balance adjustments will then affect the whole image.

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  • Chris is the new editor of National Geographic magazine, but before he joined the management team there he spent 17 years as a contributing photographer, specialising in dramatic images of the natural world. Hes well known for his images of Africa, and in particular those taken at low light levels, where he frequently mixed ambient light with fl ash. Although to the untrained eye its hard to tell in the fi nal photographs, because he did so in subtle ways, mounting an amber fi lter in a soft box to blend the fl ash with the warm glow of a fi re when shooting local villagers for instance. He also used the low light of evening and dawn to introduce a sense of movement, combining slow shutter speeds with a burst of fl ash, to retain sharpness in key areas. Chris has a new challenge at NationalGeographic. Hes the editor wholl guide themagazine into the digital age. Well be keeping akeen eye on the results

    Master oflightChris Johns

    28 Light

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  • Heres a fantastic shot of Bushman tribespeople in Namibia, gathering by the

    fi re for a night of ritual dancing. The image feels alive. Its full of contrasts cool blue sky and warm fi relight; blurred motion and frozen fragments.

    Look for more of ChrisJohns work at www.

    Light 29

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  • 30 Light

    W hen light levels start to fall, dont feel you have to immediately start charging up your fl ash it has the potential to really spoil the mood of a shot. Pick the right subject and get creative, and youll be able to continue taking photos using natural light for longer than you might imagine. Experiment with increasing the exposure level of a shot made at low ambient light levels, to restore its brightness (be wary of LCD monitors which make the image appear brighter than it actually is always check the histogram). Increase the saturation of the colours to make a scene come alive. Stop down the aperture to induce slow shutter speeds and capture movement as a blur.

    Dealing with low light

    Shoot a silhouetteThere are two key things you need to think about when trying to shoot a silhouette where youre going to meter from and where youre going to position your subject. First up, switch your cameras exposure mode to Manual, or be prepared to make use of its AE Lock feature when youre in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority. Make sure your metering patterns set to Spot (Multi-segment metering patterns will generally attempt to increase the exposure and bring detail back into the subject youre trying to render as a silhouette). Take a reading from an area of the sky which seems fairly light in tone (try near the horizon), then open up 1EV from that reading, to make it a little brighter than mid-tone. Following that, all youve got to do is position your camera so that the subjects youll be capturing as silhouettes arent merging or obscuring each other the most successful shots work because the individual shapes are distinct.

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  • Light 31

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  • 32 Light

    Slow it downTherell be times when the light levels drop so low that youve got no option but to work with really slow shutter speeds, even when youre shooting at your lens widest aperture. Not a problem if your cameras mounted to a sturdy tripod and youre shooting scenes where theres no movement. But when things are moving? Time to get creative, opting for those artistic studies of motion and colour. Mount your camera on a tripod to ensure its rock-steady throughout those long exposure times. Make sure you include a combination of stationary and moving objects to provide the contrast that makes pictures come alive. Try panning with the movement and keep at least one part of a subject reasonable sharp and discernable in the blurred area to provide a place for your viewers to jump in (and out) of the image. Watch your distance though subjects closer to the lens will require a faster shutter speed to freeze some of their motion

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  • Light 33

    Add slow sync fl ashAlthough a burst of fl ash can ruin some shots taken in low light levels resulting in the classic underexposed background and rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights look of a subject within the range of your fl ash once its married to a slow sync mode, it can provide an incredibly atmospheric exposure. This mode allows the natural light to register an exposure on your cameras sensor including any blurred movement along with a moment frozen in time by the burst of fl ash.

    Once you discover how slow sync mode can transform your photography, its sure to become the fl ash mode youll reach for more than any other. Some fl ashes can drop below their sync speed (usually 1/60 sec) as a default, others youll have to manually set to slow sync you need to read your manual to know how your fl ash will react. If your fl ash unit either a built-in one or external dedicated one has a rear curtain sync mode, its worth combining this with slow sync to allow the blurred image

    captured by the slow shutter speed to trail behind the sharp image frozen by the fl ash. Your subject will appear to move backwards if you dont. The only problem with this mode is that it becomes harder to capture the peak of the action particularly if youre panning with a moving subject. You wont be able to see through the viewfi nder while the shutters open during the long exposure, so its hard to judge where your subject will be when the fl ash is triggered. It becomes a case of biting the bullet shoot lots of frames.

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  • 34 Light

    Candlelight and fi relightThe glow of a fl ame gives you a soft, warm light which is perfect for creating atmospheric portraits. If youre photographing someone by candlelight, be sure to include all or part of the fl ame in the picture that way it wont look like a white balance error on your behalf. If shooting a portrait by candlelight, youll need to increase the ISO to 800 or 1600 and open the aperture wide to get a fast enough shutter speed to stop any subject movement. Mount your camera on a tripod to prevent camera shake as well. The key is not to trust your meter in this situation. If youve got a large area of darkness in the frame it could fool your camera into increasing the exposure. Instead, move in close to your sitter and take a meter reading off their face once youve positioned the candle in such a way that its not causing ugly shadowing across their features. Be careful not to block any of the candlelight hitting them or take a reading from an area in shadow. Adjust the exposure according to the sitters skin tone (open up for lighter skin, close down for darker skin) and recompose your shot. When shooting fi res, it can create an interesting effect if you select a small aperture and slow shutter speed (work in Aperture priority to let the camera select a corresponding shutter speed). This will introduce movement and blur to the fl ames, while the logs or coals underneath remain still. Remember to mount your camera on a tripod

    Cheer up, son! At least hes adopted a pose that he can hold for a long

    period of time photography by candlelight means slow exposures, even

    with wide-open apertures.

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  • Light 35

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  • 36 Light

    I f you want to capture the spirit of a landscape, youre going to have to wait for the right light. Unlike close-up work, where you can control and manipulate the light to suit the subject, theres no way you can control the lighting over the large area of land. You need to be prepared to wait and you might well fi nd that your most meaningful shots are taken when every other photographer has packed up and gone home. While the suns low on the horizon, its raking light causes long, deep shadows to reach out over the land. Unlike a portrait, where youre usually working to remove shadows, its the play of light and dark caused by strong sidelighting which adds texture and form to landscapes.

    Add depthJust like placing contrasting shapes, colours and sizes of subjects in the same frame can yield some of the most exciting photographs, so to will the inclusion of contrasting light. It can help give your landscape photographs an effective sense of depth to give the 2D image captured on your cameras sensor a three dimensional quality. Think in terms of contrasting bright against dark, light against shadow building up layers which lead you through a picture. A well lit foreground subject set against a dark, brooding background can create an air of tension. Imagine beyond that dark area is another band of hills, spotlit by the sun, and beyond that still, hills in shadow. Its this process of layering the light that leads your eye easily though a picture.

    Light on the landscape

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  • Light 37

    Look for balanceWith strong sidelighting, as exhibited in this picture here, you need to pay careful consideration to the composition. The deep shadows created can overwhelm a shot if theyre not balanced well with brighter areas of an image. Cover up the small, bright area of rock on the bottom-left of this shot with your thumb does the composition look better with it in place, or when its removed? Is it a distraction, or does it help balance the area in shadow with the bright strip on the horizon? Youll need to make these decisions quickly light of this quality doesnt tend to last long.

    Look for landscapes scarred by ridges and grooves to make the most of

    rich, warm sidelighting.

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  • 38 Light

    Light up the city Dont simply head for the country or coast when great lights available. Cityscapes can prove immensely rewarding to shoot during the morning or evening. Look for the low sidelighting and long shadows to give structures shape and form at this time of day. Isolate details with a medium telephoto zoom (something which a maximum reach of around 200mm should meet most needs when mounted on cameras with a 1.6 crop factor). Find windows refl ecting the cooler sky contrasting against brickwork bathed in the suns warm light. In this shot, shadows become the driving compositional element. We spot-metered off the brickwork in sunlight, rotated the camera to fi nd a dynamic angle and zoomed in to exclude distracting elements (lamposts, mainly).

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  • Light 39

    The trouble with sidelightingWeve seen that sidelighting provides excellent modelling for landscapes and buildings. The only problem is, if you shoot these scenes using a multi-segment or centre-weighted metering pattern, all those shadows are likely to fool your camera into overexposing it will try to make the dark shadows closer to mid-tone in value. This results in any brighter areas of the scene picked out by the sun becoming grossly overexposed and losing all detail. Take this series of shots above. The fi rst one was shot using multi-segment metering in Aperture priority, with no adjustment to the metered value (1/160 at f/9). The rocks

    on the right side of the image are burnt out where the cameras given more exposure bias to the shadowed area. We reduced the exposure by 0.7EV for the second shot. Again, the large rock at the base of the steps is too hot. Reducing the exposure by a total of 1.3EV for the third shot has ensured the rocks have now returned to a brightnesslevel which matches the way the scene appeared to our eyes. The third image provides a more usable start-point for image-processing, although the second one would likely provide a better result if you print directly from the camera. For more exposure solutions, see our previous guide, Master Exposure.

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  • 40 Light

    Capture the elementsIf its raining heavily, angle yourself towards the light backlighting makes raindrops sparkle. Offset them against a dark background to maximise the effect. If you want to freeze the drops, select a shutter speed of around 1/125 sec or faster opt for 1/60 sec or slower to render them as streaks of light. As with most action shots, its best to fi re off several frames in quick succession, then check the LCD monitor to judge the best arrangement of drops/lines.

    Look for quite momentsWhile backlighting can be loud and attention-grabbing, it can also be used in more subtle ways. Take this coastal shot, for instance. Its backlit, although theres no rimlighting or glow. Instead, the overcast day has created the perfect light for this striking graphic image. It would lose its power if there was any more discernable detail in the silhouetted rocks. If it was shot on a bright day, the focus of the picture would be more on the image in the background. As it is, the strength of the shot comes from the whole, rather than the individual parts.

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  • Light 41

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  • 42 Light

    Shoot waterSeek out rivers, streams, lakes and pools when shooting landscapes. They bring the land to life.

    A polarizer will help reduce glaring surface refl ections on the water on a sunny day. But on a gloomy day, its those very highlights that youre trying to preserve, in order to add interest.

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  • Light 43

    Invest in a neutral density graduated fi lter. The refl ection will be darker than the sky an ND grad will help you balance the exposure. Avoid over-fi ltering though start with a 1-stop grad.

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  • 44 Light

    Take away the colourYoull begin getting a bigger appreciation of the role light plays in photography if you start seeing the world in black and white. Without the distraction of colour, youll begin to gain a deeper understanding of how light, shadow and composition are the building blocks of the most successful photographs. Continue to take images as colour ones in-camera, but convert them to black and white on your computer later (then youve always got the option of returning to the colour original). Identify what it is that you like about the way the light and shadow work together in your best images, then try using that knowledge on an entirely different subject.

    Be persistentDont resist returning to a promising photographic location over time in order to capture the scene under different lighting conditions. Seasonally, the light will be drastically different, but it also changes on a much smaller scale. What is in sunlight in the morning could well be in shadow by the afternoon. Over just half an hour at dawn or dusk, the quality and colour of light can vary dramatically. Find the view that pleases you most and stick with it and dont be satisfi ed with the fi rst frame you make.

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  • Light 45

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  • 46 Light

    One of the most prolifi c phographers in the United States, George Lepp has been capturiing breathtaking images with his camera and lecturing on photographic techniques for over three decades. He specialises in photography of the natural world and has been at the forefront of the digital revolution hes the founder and director of the Lepp Institute of Digital Imaging in California, where interested parties can learn about digital capture, image-editing and printing. Hes one of Canons Explorers of Light, a group of 60 world-class photographers who share their knowledge and passion for photography through seminars and personal appearances. They also get to use the latest Canon EOS kit.

    Master of lightGeorge D. Lepp

    46 Light

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  • Light 47

    Trying to select an image which typifi es Georges approach to capturing light is

    a hard process a man whos been a top-class image maker for over 30 years tends to build up a vast collection of stunning photographs. But this leapt out at us. It just screams LIGHT!

    See more of Georges impressive images at

    Light 47

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  • 48 Light

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  • Light 49

    1RISE EARLY, STAY LATEThe golden hours around dawn and dusk are when the light tends to be the most exciting.

    2USE REFLECTORSYoull get more natural results if you use a refl ector to fi ll-in detail, rather than reaching for a fl ashgun.

    3KEEP SILHOUETTES SIMPLEMake sure you retain the distinctive shape of a subject dont let it bleed into other silhouettes.

    4 ADD FLASH SUBTLYAvoid the overfl ashed look reduce your fl ash output when shooting in daylight.

    5AVOID FLAREShield the front element of your lens with your hand when shooting into the sun.

    6BRING OUT COLOURSShoot saturated colours such as autumn foliage on an overcast or cloudy-bright day.

    7WATCH YOUR METERYour camera can be fooled by unusual lighting conditions. Spot meter for total control.

    8 ADD LIGHT IN FOGWhen shooting mist or fog, increase your exposure by 1EV to bring back the brightness.

    9GO SLOWWhen shooting in low light, combine a slow shutter speed with a burst of fl ash for interesting results.

    10BE PERSISTENTInspiring views deserve inspiring light dont be satisfi ed until you get it.


    Top 10 tips...

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