Why Shadows Are Key To Great Landscape Photographs
PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FOR OUTDOORS | Darrin Henry
Recognising good photography light is sometimes confusing for beginners. I mean, early afternoon with clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine is when scenery looks fantastic, doesn’t it? Isn’t this a good time to take a picture?
What The Camera Can Do
In fact, in most cases this turns out to be the worst time to photograph landscapes. Reason being, our cameras don’t cope well with the strong contrast between the glare and shadows that midday sunlight creates.
When the sun is lower in the sky the contrasts are more gentle, this allows cameras to cope better and capture an even balance of bright parts (sky, white buildings etc) and the darker areas (trees, buildings etc.)
An easy method I use to help me recognise good landscape light is to look for shadows. Let me explain.
Shadows Make Photographs Better
Preferred conditions for capturing most outdoor scenes (landscapes, architecture, street scenes, etc) is early mornings or late afternoons. Identify good shadows and chances are you have good light conditions. But what are good shadows?
Longer shadows are generally going to be better, it automatically means the sun is lower in the sky.
Sharp edges on the shadow is good, it indicates direct sunlight without cloud interference.
Position and direction is important. You don’t want the shadows coming towards you; as you point the camera they should fall any direction away in an arc from hard left all the way around to hard right.
Shadows also add depth, compensating for the ‘flat’ effect; the lack of 3D we get with photographs.
That’s the basic idea. I’ve included examples here, with camera settings for fellow nerds who find this data useful.
Breaking The Rules In Photography
Remember though, photography tips are always just that, tips – keep your mind (and eye) open for the creative moment where you need to do the complete opposite to convention. Harsh midday sun might suit the look you’re shooting or the shadows that fall straight toward you could work perfectly in a particular situation.
That’s the theory, now go outdoors and practise! The secret hides in the shadows!