Wednesday, October 7, 2015

One Landscape, Three Looks: How natural light can change your Photo

Paying more attention to light is perhaps the single most important step you can take to improve your photography. With many landscapes, having good natural lighting can even be more important than the choice of subject itself. Different types of natural light can also produce a wide variety of subject appearances even though these all have the same light source. 

Three factors influence how natural light renders a subject: time of day, camera direction and weather. And while the landscape in my images is the same when it comes to camera direction, the time of day and weather will change. Let's explore what's different in these shots.

Natural Light Photography


Clear Midday Sunshine

Midday lighting is primarily comprised of direct, downward sunlight. Such light has little chance to scatter and diffuse through the atmosphere, or to bounce off the ground and illuminate the subject indirectly. This results in the hardest and most neutrally-colored lighting of any time of day, and is typically the least desirable type of natural light. Due to these drawbacks, too often photographers put their camera away potentially missing unique opportunities. For example, water may appear more transparent, since light penetrates deeper and direct reflections off the surface are less likely. Alternatively, other types of photographs are more about capturing a particular event, as opposed to achieving an image with optimal lighting.


Golden Hour and Sunset

The hour just before sunset and just after sunrise (the "golden hour") is typically regarded as having the most desirable light for photography. This is characterized by horizontal light that casts long shadows and gives subjects a warm glow. Sunsets and sunrises make for exciting and highly varied lighting. Clouds are rendered using sunlight which reflects off them from underneath as opposed to sunlight which has diffused through them from above potentially causing the sky to light up with a soft, warm light.


Twilight, Dawn and Dusk

Twilight, dawn and dusk typically describe the half hour before sunrise or after sunset when the sky is still bright but there's no longer any direct sunlight. The primary source of light effectively becomes the entire sky, with one side appearing warm and reddish and the other becoming a cool blue or purple. This can produce wonderfully soft, multicolored lighting that gives a calm, peaceful mood to subjects. Perhaps the biggest disadvantages are the lack of contrast and ambient light. Hand-held shots are therefore rarely possible, and achieving a sufficient sense of depth may require more attention to composition. Cameras also often over-expose twilight scenes when using automatic exposures potentially washing out the otherwise delicate colors since twilight almost never contains any fully white objects.


I hope these example images could showcase the various aspects of natural light photography and how various lighting conditions can give you many looks.

35 comments:

  1. Yes, lighting makes a lot of difference to the pics.
    I liked all of them though, a scenic place!
    Happy ABCW!

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    1. Thank you. It's a very scenic place, I guess that's why I decided to return to it so many times.

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  2. In my mind I'm singing the "Misty Mountain" Song from the Hobbit =)

    Greetings, Dana

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  3. Just like Indrani above, i also like all of your shots. I know about the golden hour, yet i also click at noon when we are outside.

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  4. Thanks Mersad, I can confirm that in summer here in Perth the sun is very harsh in the middle of the day, so for me the best is definitely before 10am and after 4pm.

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    1. Same here as well. Those are the best times for taking photos.

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  5. Wonderful informative post, Mersad... beautiful examples!

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  6. Marvelous - thank you for this post!

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  7. i like the twilight best out of these three. thanks for the tips

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  8. Since a lot of my hikes occur over the midday, I still take photos regardless. But I do pay attention to the light...you are right, it makes such a difference between a good and a great image.

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    1. There is of course the necessity of taking images midday (applies to me as well). Sometimes you are just at a certain point in a certain place and have to take the shot. But even then you can use ND filters and other techniques to lessen the impact of the bright sun.

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  9. Glorious captures, Mersad, as always!! Thank you so much for sharing the beauty and very helpful information that you share as well! Hope your week is going well!!!

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  10. Lovely examples of different lighting times in your shots

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  11. Wonderful pictures Mersad... i love every time of the day to photograph...but the blue hours and the golden ones are extra special.

    Have a nice ABC-week / - day
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc-w-team)

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    1. I am in awe with the blue hour recently, but of course nothing beats a good sunset shot.

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  12. All lovely--- it also shows why revisiting places often leads to rewarding results.

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    1. In this case it really has. Over the last year I visited three times and came back with different shots.

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  13. Beautiful. Natural is always best!

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  14. Fantastične su sve tri fotografije, ne mogu da se odlučim za favorita.

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  15. I agree about light. The early evening here is almost magical in my opinion. You are an amazing photographer!

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  16. Wow, your photos are amazing. I love the golden hour sunset the best. The warm golden glow is beautiful !!! Thanks for sharing your talent with us.

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  17. They are all lovely but showed perfectly how the time of day can completely transform a landscape

    Mollyxxx

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  18. Thank you so much for all your helpful information, and for sharing your gorgeous photos!

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  19. I never put my camera away in the middle of the day. The light just changes the way I compose images. And you are right, the twilight/dawn/dusk images (or any time when there is fog or mist) are tricky to get the exposure right. I still fail often and am working on finding the setting I like in these circumstances.

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  20. Thanks for the advice. I feel better about when I shoot photos now. A photographer local to my area told me that the best time to shoot was before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. but I haven't heeded him. Much.
    The View from the Top of the Ladder

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  21. Beautiful share. Nature is a grand subject to shoot. Thank you for the beautiful photos.

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  22. I often take my photos while traveling and can not time the light. The sun is very intense here as we live at a high altitude and mid day photos are very bright. I find the night the most challenging. I don't often use a tripod and I know that is essential to good night photography.

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  23. All are lovely, but golden hour is my favorite!

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  24. I love your photos. Such a gorgeous view. I have been pretty smitten with early morning light lately. Just after the sun comes up about 7:00. It takes my breath away.

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