Poetry of the Earth
Another photographer recently talked to me about his silly habit of taking camera gear with him wherever he goes, even if he knows the light is going to be harsh. I think he expected me to agree with him, and tell him he really *should not* hike with that extra 15lbs of gear up a mountain. Instead, I reminded him of Murphy’s Law. If he didn’t hike with his gear, he would get to the top of the mountain, only to find a unicorn standing under a rainbow, in front of a (completely unforecasted) partial solar eclipse.
Now, don’t get me wrong, blue skies at mid-day are not ideal light to shoot in. I’ll always prefer the diffuse light of sunrise and sunset, or the textured light of cloudy New England days. But if I find myself somewhere epic, with only a small window to shoot, I’m going to make the best of the conditions I have.
So, how do we do that? First, I’d invest in filters to help you tame unruly light. Circular polarizers help to cut down on harsh glare, beef up blue skies and give foliage a lush feel in bad light. A neutral density filter will help you decrease the amount of light entering the camera. Graduated neutral density filters are particularly handy for modifying the harsh light of blazing, mid-day skies, while still keeping your foreground well-exposed. (If you want a bit more information about this, check out our practical tips e-book! You can get a copy in our store, or on itunes through the Light & Landscapes magazine…found in the Newstand app.)
I’d also be certain that if you have the option to shoot in RAW, you do so. As long as your highlights aren’t clipped and your shadows aren’t crushed, you may have enough data to work with to recover some of the image’s detail. Remember to keep an eye on your histogram as you shoot and adjust your camera’s settings to give you the best possible chance at a successful photograph.
Balanced Flow :: RI
If the shadows and highlights are just too severe, you may also consider converting the image to black and white. Personally, I prefer a well exposed black and white with full tonal range…but if image detail can’t be salvaged, B&W can generally support high contrast images.
Most of the time, your best bet will be to shoot during good light, as it will have fewer tonal extremes and be easier to edit. Sometimes though, some places just won’t allow you to shoot during the golden hours. In my opinion, you shouldn’t let that stop you from capturing your “epic place” experience. Play with your camera and filters. You may not get any award winning shots that day….but then again…you might!
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