Learn the Light
In part two of the "Shooting in Bad Light" blogs, I wanted to touch on some of the benefits of shooting during those less desirable times of day. There are certain situations where shooting in the hours between around 10:00am to about 4:00pm can actually be beneficial. In the quest to becoming a better photographer, understanding light and how to use it is one of the most difficult and most important tasks we face. If we learn the strengths and weaknesses of different types of light, we can make good photos any time of day.
Learn Which Locations Work and When
Over the years, I have learned that shooting early in the afternoon suits city photography well. Due to the short days of winter, I had spent most of my recent time shooting in the city at night. I had nearly forgotten how awesome it can be to get out early on a spring day with the camera in hand. Luckily my friend Brett Day, from The Pentax Pioneer, had just received his new Pentax K1 MKII, a couple beautiful pieces of Pentax glass, and was itching to shoot as much as I was. We decided to meet downtown at 3:00pm and see what we could come up with.
I've noticed that there is one thing canyons and cities have in common as it pertains to photography, and that is reflected light. When you're down between all of these massive structures of engineering marvel, light does amazing things. A high sun will hit windows and walls, bouncing warm, diffused light about. This creates stunning scenes that change as the day progresses. During my photowalk with Brett, I made it a point to keep an eye out for these reflected light scenes.
Keep Your Subjects in Mind
I think harsher light goes bad for a lot of people when they don't shoot to the conditions. A grand cityscape will nearly always look better in golden hour or at night than it will in the middle of the day. An isolated scene between buildings, in the shadows of the buildings or similar will play to the strengths of mid-day conditions. If you're needing to shoot portraits early in the day, paying attention to the shadows can contribute to your photos as much as the overall location does.
On a prior photowalk into the city, some friends and I found the roof of a parking garage protected from the harsh light by the shadow of a tall building. However, across from the roof was a glass fronted building, reflecting in gorgeous fill light for our portrait subject and provided an amazing backdrop. These are certainly ways to take great portraits in the less desirable hours of the day.
Don't Be Afraid to Try New Things
What a lot of this really comes down to is not being afraid to experiment. Sometimes an open area with direct sun will give you vibrant, saturated colors, stark contrast, and a vivid, punchy photograph overall. For street photography, it's a look I rather enjoy. These shots often work quite well as high contrast black and white photos, too. Some of my personal favorite street photos were taken in the early afternoon with Kodak T-Max 400 black and white film using a red filter.
Photography is really a great thing for its ability to challenge and satisfy a person. Experimenting with light doesn't always work, but when it does, you're bound to learn something from your photos and make some amazing photographs. I would like to challenge all of you reading this to get out with your cameras more often and play with times of day you normally avoid.
See what you can learn by looking for shadows and reflected light. Shoot subjects in harsh light from different angles. If you can move your subjects, rotate the subject around to experiment with the directionality of the light. Learn how to make the harsh light work for you, rather than against you. Introduce artificial light to the mix and you're really in for a treat. It's amazing what you can do even in the middle of the day!
It is my hope that you have learned a bit by reading this and feel inspired to get out and shoot more often. I'm often guilty of avoiding adverse conditions for shooting, and have seriously enjoyed challenging myself to make the most of what nature gives me. Let's make less excuses and more photos.
I hope that you've enjoyed reading this, and I thank you for stopping by! I especially appreciate any of you that follow me on my socials below: