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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Nature & Landscapes Talk
Thread started 07 Sep 2017 (Thursday) 22:57
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Landscape photography in harsh light

 
djr81
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Joined Nov 2013
Sep 07, 2017 22:57 |  #1

Does anyone have tips to improve the quality of shots taken in the harsh light of the day.

The reason I ask is most of the shots I see of North Australia are taken on sunrise/sunset. Which is fine however given that the golden hour feels like it lasts 5 minutes up there, the difficulties in avoiding livestock when travelling in the dark and basic scheduling problems it is not often possible to be where you want when you want. So shots are taken in less than ideal lighting, by which I mean harsh midday sun.

I returned from holidays with some half decent stuff but a lot of it is reduced to "holiday snaps" simply because the light is so unforgiving, as per below. They weren't taken expecting anything more but I would like to try and broaden the envelope a bit. As you can see from the vignetting I had a CPL.

So are there any tips either when taking the shot or in post processing.

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Littlejon ­ Dsgn
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Sep 07, 2017 23:31 |  #2

Unfortunately the only thing I have found was to get up earlier, stay up later, drive slower around animals and just do what you need to, to be at the location for golden hour.




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MalVeauX
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Sep 08, 2017 09:18 |  #3

Heya,

It is what it is. No magic bullet.

This is why a lot of landscapers shoot at dawn & dusk.

If you wanted to do these shots mid-day, it would have needed to be over-cast and cloud covered. Full sun is generally going to wash it out and there's nothing you can do.

Very best,


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imsellingmyfoot
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Sep 08, 2017 10:11 |  #4

I found for harsh light I had to get experimental. Long exposures work if there are clouds. Sometimes the harsh light works well for a black and white image. I also use my Hoya R72 IR filter to do IR images.


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OhLook
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Sep 08, 2017 10:23 |  #5

Can you go at a time of year when the light is weaker and shoot either a few hours before or a few hours after high noon?


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Left ­ Handed ­ Brisket
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Post has been edited 1 month ago by Left Handed Brisket.
Sep 08, 2017 10:30 |  #6

i'm not trying to be mean, but i'd be working on composition.

foreground, midground and background elements help provide depth.

placing subjects in the "rule of thirds"

different perspectives ... looks like both of those were taken standing straight up in the middle of nowhere

placing objects where the viewers eye is taken from one spot to another ... "leading lines"


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Snydremark
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Sep 08, 2017 23:07 |  #7

The tongue in cheek, but still mostly serious answer is: Don't do it. You've seen the things that you have to contend with. If you find yourself with no choice, though, you can do a few things to try and mitigate it;

Shoot "lower"; find framings and subjects that allow you to minimize the amount of open skies in the shot

ND filters can help you lengthen your exposures, in order to capture motion and such. You can use this on foliage/clouds/water/e​tc, potentially

Pay real attention to where the sun is falling and move to find angles that have it coming more from behind (you) than off to the sides. Your first shot is an example here; from where the shadows are landing, it looks like the sun was fore/right of the camera. Leaving you with heavy, hard shadows on the right that are out of balance with the left of the frame. If you'd been able to swing around to the right until the sun was more over your shoulder, it's possible you could have found some framing with a bit more appeal.

In post processing, when the scene is like this, the first place I would start is dialing contrast back a fair bit to even the balance between light/shadow a little and then (carefully) adjust colors/saturation to compensate.

Delve into black/white shooting and take advantage of the inherent contrast in the scenes.


These are all workarounds, though, for trying to mitigate the conditions. I would still strongly suggest just setting the camera aside when the conditions are like this and try to enjoy being where you are.


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djr81
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Sep 09, 2017 00:58 |  #8

Snydremark wrote in post #18447776 (external link)
The tongue in cheek, but still mostly serious answer is: Don't do it. You've seen the things that you have to contend with. If you find yourself with no choice, though, you can do a few things to try and mitigate it;

Shoot "lower"; find framings and subjects that allow you to minimize the amount of open skies in the shot

ND filters can help you lengthen your exposures, in order to capture motion and such. You can use this on foliage/clouds/water/e​tc, potentially

Pay real attention to where the sun is falling and move to find angles that have it coming more from behind (you) than off to the sides. Your first shot is an example here; from where the shadows are landing, it looks like the sun was fore/right of the camera. Leaving you with heavy, hard shadows on the right that are out of balance with the left of the frame. If you'd been able to swing around to the right until the sun was more over your shoulder, it's possible you could have found some framing with a bit more appeal.

In post processing, when the scene is like this, the first place I would start is dialing contrast back a fair bit to even the balance between light/shadow a little and then (carefully) adjust colors/saturation to compensate.

Delve into black/white shooting and take advantage of the inherent contrast in the scenes.


These are all workarounds, though, for trying to mitigate the conditions. I would still strongly suggest just setting the camera aside when the conditions are like this and try to enjoy being where you are.

Yeah many times it was a huge contrast that meant it was a case of enjoy the place (The overwhelming purpose of going there after all) and take a few snaps to help remember what it looked like as per the above. Half the gorge would be in direct sun and the other in deep shadow. Clouds hadn't been seen for a good couple months and the light was punishing from just after sunrise to just before sunset. This in the dry season which coincides with late winter/early spring for us southerners.

Thanks for the tips.

Just out of interest are the newer sensors getting better with dealing with such things?




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Snydremark
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Sep 09, 2017 10:28 |  #9

djr81 wrote in post #18447810 (external link)
Yeah many times it was a huge contrast that meant it was a case of enjoy the place (The overwhelming purpose of going there after all) and take a few snaps to help remember what it looked like as per the above. Half the gorge would be in direct sun and the other in deep shadow. Clouds hadn't been seen for a good couple months and the light was punishing from just after sunrise to just before sunset. This in the dry season which coincides with late winter/early spring for us southerners.

Thanks for the tips.

Just out of interest are the newer sensors getting better with dealing with such things?

They're getting better at handling large dynamic range differences; what they're not getting (able to get?) better at is being able to do anything about the other effects of that high, hard light. It's similar to using the popup or other direct flash in portraits; it blasts away a lot of the micro-details, textures, etc that give the shot some character and gives a much less saturated color palette.


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DreDaze
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Sep 09, 2017 10:35 |  #10

If a spot is in harsh sun, and also has shadows, i feel like you have to bracket the shots


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Wilt
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Post has been last edited 1 month ago by Wilt. 3 edits done in total.
Sep 09, 2017 13:14 |  #11

Digital affords a lot of opportunities to postprocess to make 'improvements' to photos, or simply alternative interpretations. Here is one simple example that I did to one of your photos, in an attempt to reduce a bit of the bright sun harshness that was recorded...

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ejenner
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Post has been last edited 1 month ago by ejenner. 2 edits done in total.
Sep 10, 2017 01:29 |  #12

I must admit I do this sort of think a bit. Hopefully you have some cloud cover which at least enables you to work with some shadows, but in this case you don't even have that.


Just for ideas, this is how I would have a first stab at processing them. The added 'sun' in the first is not something I would routinely do, but it seemed to help IMO.

In the second I warmed up the non-sky and tried to create/shape some shadows to give the light some more direction in the lower part.

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Pippan
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Sep 10, 2017 02:20 |  #13

djr81 wrote in post #18447069 (external link)
Does anyone have tips to improve the quality of shots taken in the harsh light of the day.

The reason I ask is most of the shots I see of North Australia are taken on sunrise/sunset. Which is fine however given that the golden hour feels like it lasts 5 minutes up there, the difficulties in avoiding livestock when travelling in the dark and basic scheduling problems it is not often possible to be where you want when you want. So shots are taken in less than ideal lighting, by which I mean harsh midday sun.

I returned from holidays with some half decent stuff but a lot of it is reduced to "holiday snaps" simply because the light is so unforgiving, as per below. They weren't taken expecting anything more but I would like to try and broaden the envelope a bit. As you can see from the vignetting I had a CPL.

So are there any tips either when taking the shot or in post processing.

Ha, welcome to northern Australia! These are my usual shooting conditions. You are certainly right in that in Australia's wet/dry tropics cloud is rare, golden hour is short and you don't want to be driving at night if you can avoid it, even with a solid bull-bar. Much of my photography is for my tour clients and nearly all of it is in harsh sunlight as they are on day tours from Darwin, mostly in the dry season. Even people are difficult as they always have hats on, shading their faces and if they have dark skin (as my main guide does) it's even harder (although fill-flash helps). I think I get OK results though. I always use a good CPL (Hoya Fusion) on an 80D at ISO 100, occasionally 200, no more, and use 1/3 stop exposure brackets to be able to choose the optimum ETTR exposure for processing. I drop highlights and lift shadows as necessary, keeping contrast at a reasonable level. Remember though that you were seeing the scenes with great contrast and you don't want to take too much of that character out of them, making them too bland. It's the nature of the place.

Other than that, camping/swagging out is a good way to be close to many of the great scenes so you can be there near the beginning or end of the day when they are at their best and other tourists are rare. And spending a lot of time out bush so you can catch the moments when conditions are most favourable.




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djr81
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Sep 10, 2017 09:31 |  #14

Pippan wrote in post #18448394 (external link)
Ha, welcome to northern Australia! These are my usual shooting conditions. You are certainly right in that in Australia's wet/dry tropics cloud is rare, golden hour is short and you don't want to be driving at night if you can avoid it, even with a solid bull-bar. Much of my photography is for my tour clients and nearly all of it is in harsh sunlight as they are on day tours from Darwin, mostly in the dry season. Even people are difficult as they always have hats on, shading their faces and if they have dark skin (as my main guide does) it's even harder (although fill-flash helps). I think I get OK results though. I always use a good CPL (Hoya Fusion) on an 80D at ISO 100, occasionally 200, no more, and use 1/3 stop exposure brackets to be able to choose the optimum ETTR exposure for processing. I drop highlights and lift shadows as necessary, keeping contrast at a reasonable level. Remember though that you were seeing the scenes with great contrast and you don't want to take too much of that character out of them, making them too bland. It's the nature of the place.

Other than that, camping/swagging out is a good way to be close to many of the great scenes so you can be there near the beginning or end of the day when they are at their best and other tourists are rare. And spending a lot of time out bush so you can catch the moments when conditions are most favourable.

Tried to hang about a few times on sun set (Bungle Bungles, El Questro and Windjana) but in each case the trip back to the camp was not much fun (Windjana because of the horse flies, El Questro for the live stock and the Bungle Bungles because we were just plain tired. But some spots like Jim Jim falls were an hours walk followed by an hours drive to the camp.

Jim Jim was the Hardest, bright sun one side, deep shade the other and only a small amount of water going over the falls.




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Pippan
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Post has been last edited 1 month ago by Pippan. 3 edits done in total.
Sep 10, 2017 09:55 as a reply to djr81's post |  #15

Yes it's harsh country and some of it is hard to photograph well unless you have a lot of time. I know a bloke who walked the 60 km in to Jim Jim Falls from the main road in the middle of the wet season (the track is impassable to vehicles from November to July/August) to photograph it in full flow (in the 80s, so film). Nearly a week till he got back. That's commitment!




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