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Get out early or stay out late
Sorry to put a dampener on your summer, but the days are already getting shorter and nights are drawing in, but in July you still need to be get up early for sunrise (around 5am) or stay out late for sunset (around 9pm). Make the effort though and you’ll gain some dynamic, exciting pictures featuring (hopefully) great light. First thing is eye safety: you should never look at the sun through an optical instrument, even through a dense neutral density filter, unless it’s a dedicated eclipse filter. Having a sun in the shot is not always a good thing anyway, because you end up with a very contrasty hot spot, unless you're lucky enough to have it diffused by enough cloud to give a ball of fire. Compose and focus using live view if you have the sun in the frame, or use a tree, lamp post or cloud as a shield. Doing this will also help to avoid flare in your shots, although it can be used creatively, too. Dust on your lens or filter can exacerbate the flare issue so make sure the lens’s front and back elements are clean and, if you have one fitted, remove the protection filter. With the high contrast between the sun and the much darker foreground, you will need to expose carefully and use graduated filters to help achieve the desired result. With ND grads, manual exposure is the best mode to use. If you want detail in the foreground, meter to expose for some detail and then take a meter reading from the highlights to determine the brightness difference and then select a graduate filter to suit. So, if your foreground reading is 1/125sec at f/5.6 and the highlight reading is 1/125sec at f/16, that’s a three-stop difference, so the ideal is to use a 0.9ND or 3EV grad filter. Another way to deal with high contrast is to bracket exposures and either pick the best exposure afterwards or merge bracketed shots.
possible during the bracket – setting continuous shooting mode is a good idea. In editing, you’ll find you don't need to merge the entire bracket for a good result, so experiment. With scenics, you might prefer to use a wide or standard lens to make more of the foreground, but you can also fit a longer lens to make more of the sunset itself. The longer the lens, the bigger the sun. You get a disk of 1mm per 100mm of focal length, so if you have a 300mm lens fitted with a 2x teleconverter, the 600mm focal length gives a sun disk measuring 6mm on the image. You can get some amazing images with a mix of sun, clouds and haze during sunrise and sunset – but remember, only use live view for this sort of work. ABOVE Summer is a great time to capture sunrise or sunset shots, but be careful not to look at the sun directly through your viewfinder
Buildings reflected in other buildings, cars and shop fronts make for interesting pictures and you can’t really plan for them, so if you spot an eye- catching scene, shoot it. Reflections are at their strongest when the reflected scene is brightly lit so if you’re walking down a street, opting for the shady side will often work better for this type of shot, and you need to pick a lens according to the scene. Often a standard or telezoom will give a better result, but don't rule out wide-angles and much depends on the size of the reflective surface and whether you can avoid your own reflection in shot. Whatever your lens choice, focus carefully and think about aperture choice. Try focusing on the reflection for one frame and then on the reflected subject for another, or try somewhere between the two using manual focus and set a small lens aperture so you get both sharp. You will need to experiment a bit and don't be surprised if you find that the camera struggles with autofocus so you might have to use manual. Exposure can be challenge, too. If the reflected subject is brightly lit and the reflective surface is in shadow, the contrast range is very wide. You could bracket exposures to merge later or just aim to get the reflection well exposed and lighten the shadows in editing. Time to reflect ABOVE Reflections can make for interesting and eye-catching shots. Try shooting them using a standard or telezoom lens
Most cameras have an AEB or autoexposure bracket mode that shoots three exposures, one at the metered value, one above and one below. Many cameras let you take five, seven or even nine frames at different exposure settings. If you intend to merge shots, put the camera on a tripod or just keep the camera as still as
Harsh summer sunlight is not always so conducive to good pictures, but it remains a powerful source of inspiration, so rather than dismissing the light as being too contrasty, check out the opportunities with shadows. Shadows cast on to buildings or Fun with shadows
abstract patterns created by people (especially if you shoot from a higher viewpoint) can work well. Exposing for the highlights means you end up with powerful silhouettes that look even more amazing when converted to black & white.
ABOVE Shooting only one colour or set of colours can make for a fun shoot
Pick a colour
Tune into a colour next time you’re out for a town or city walk. Indeed, you could pick a different colour or combination of colours each time you venture out. The fun with this theme is that you can make it as easy or as difficult as you like. If you visit the local park, picking green is an easy option and perhaps not much of a test of your vision, but perhaps make it harder by including only shades of green
in your shots and taking enough shots for a collage. The option of looking for colour combinations is worth exploring, too, perhaps red and blue, or blue and white, or maybe red, white and blue. A telephoto zoom lens works well for this sort of shooting, because it makes it easier to crop out colours that don’t fit into your theme and produce powerful abstract shots.
ABOVE The strong shadows provided by bright sun can result in striking images
Go to photographynews.co.uk for more Summer Festival content, including more project ideas and techniques to inspire you.
12 Photography News | Issue 79
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