Tuesday, August 30, 2016


It does not matter what my subject is: portraits of people, animals, cars, hot air balloons; when outside natural light—at the right time of day—can’t be beat. And when doing fine-art images of things outside, particularly if I’m using the direct sun as my key light, it’s vital that I use either sunrise or the last couple hours before sunset as my start time.

Most photographers get that; I hear constant agreement that the “Magic Hour” is the best time of day for outdoor photography.  But, all too often I still see images done at the magic hour that are done in broad light (flat light) lacking texture and detail because there are no shadows. What’s the point of going out at the magic hour if you’re not going to create some magic with that great light!

What these photographers are missing from the equation is Camera Position. I tell my students, “If there are no shadows you’re out at the wrong time of day and/or you’re in the wrong spot.” It’s real easy figuring the right time of day—just go online to a weather site or almanac for your location—nothing to it. But, for camera position relative to your subject you must look for and see the light’s effect on your subject. I guess a lot of photographers out there have vision but don’t see the light.

So, what I do when I arrive on my location, typically about 2 hours before sunset, I pre-scout all the subjects I have before me for their position relative to the setting sun. If the sun isn’t skimming across my subject from one side or the other then I move my camera position so that it is.

This is what I’m looking for…

f9.0 @ 1/250 sec. ISO 400
Dramatic lighting like this is ideal for black-and-white work where it’s essential to have good blacks. Theses images were done at a local tractor salvage yard. There were rows of these great, rusting, old, tractors and their parts on this two acre site. Most of my favorite images were done inside the last hour of light.

 f16.0 @ 1/125 sec., ISO 400
I kept this one color for those great reds and the rusted wheel.  

This next one was one of my favorite tractors…

 f11.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 400
I love this old, beat-up, tractor! The lighting actually looked good facing its front as the sun was crossing its front surface nicely, but I found it even more dramatic moving my camera position to the tractor’s shadow side. This position gave me a hard skimming/back-light that created what we call “short-lighting” on the tractor.

Short lighting is one of my favorite lighting patterns when doing portraits of people—very dramatic.

’Til next week…have questions don’t hesitate to ask…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUSA.com
Fine Art site: http://www.TheMithrilCanvas.com

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