Friday, 21 December 2007

Light 4: Twilight

You have taken lots of pictures during the day. You have shot from sunrise to sunset. And now that the sun has gone down, you say to yourself, "Well, my friend, you had good day, now that the sun is away for the next day, I won't be getting good shots. So, let's call it a day!"

Wrong my friend, wrong! This is the time to shoot some of the most remarkable shots of your life. Because, you are just in the Twilight zone. This the rare time of the day, when the street lights are on, and the sky is not altogether pitch black. Now the sky is indigo, and the buildings are golden with artificial light. Remember, 20-40 minutes past sunset, is the best, and possibly only time to shoot the violet-indigo sky.

India gate, illuminated : Delhi

For this you will need a tripod, to keep the camera rock-steady. Because, in the twilight photography, the exposures are long. If you use 100 ISO film, they can be as long as 4 seconds with f/11 aperture. At this long an exposure, you can never hold the camera in your hand, you'll get shaky pictures. So, tripod is a must.

The long exposure comes with some added benefits too. If you are shooting by the road, you will get light trails from cars passing by. Sometimes the lights look like streaks, sometimes they resemble comets. And if you are shooting by the sea? The waves will look like ghostly mist!

Cool Twilight tip: Try to get a low-angle shot. While positioning the camera, set it up at around one foot high from the ground. This low-angle will add to the drama of the shot.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Light 3: Overcast Skylight.

Every time we are shooting in the sunlight, the bright sun offers us huge amount of natural light as well as harsh shadows. If you are taking the advantage of the free bright light, you have to take the shadows as well. It's a package deal. The fill-in flash cannot always minimize the effect too.

Here comes the natural solution for harsh shadows: OVERCAST SKYLIGHT

Best overcast skylights are available on those days when the sun is high and the sky is covered with pale grey clouds. Those days, you will never have to bring out your flash to hide the dark shadow patches. Beautiful portraits: simply, naturally! This soft light not only helps to create brilliant portraits, but capturing minute architectural details also.

An angel representing commerce.

Overcast or rainy days are great to capture nature also. Go out to the garden, have a splish-splash, shoot the brilliant colors of nature saturated to optimum. This is the time when grass is at its greenest, and the dandelion is at its yellowest.

This "mother of all softboxes" is not without problems, though. Too much of sky in your pictures may look boring, how much exceptional they may be. So, try to include as little sky as possible in your shots.

Victoria Memorial, Kolkata
This shot, although came out nicely, is a bit boring because of the flat white sky.

OVERCAST COOL TIP: Overcast skies are slightly more "blue" than normal skies. So if you are using a film camera with normal daylight film, use an 81C warming filter. And if you are a digital camera user, simply turn the "white balance" to cloudy.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Light 2: Portraits in sunlight.

You have gone to visit a nice museum with your girlfriend; you have clicked some photo inside. But outside, there is a piece of nice architecture, which you want to shoot with your fiancée beside it. No problem, you take out your camera, ask her to stand beside it, and click you go. You are really happy that the shot has turned out great.

After you’ve come back, you look at the enlargement of the shot, and your girl friend has dark ugly shadows beneath her eyes and nose and chin. Something like this one:

But you have nothing to do now, than to cry in desperation “Why me?” and bang your fists on the desk.

Relax; it is a common problem, not with you alone. Professionals deal with this by bringing out large diffusers. But to us amateurs, it is but a ridiculous and impossible option to carry huge white screens on our shoulders.

Our option is the flash. Many will find it difficult to believe that firing the flash is required even in daylight, when there is so much of natural light, but the flash is really helpful to cut off those unwanted shadows beneath the eye, chin, etc. The flash is filling up the shadows, right? That’s why we call it “fill flash”.

Not only flash fills up the shadows, it adds a glint of light to eyes of the subject. The light is called “catchlight”. It makes the eyes of the subject much livelier and the portrait more interesting.

Another good option can be to wait for near sunrise or sunset, if you have ample time.
Because just as in the case of landscapes, low sun creates flattering warm glow, as well as interesting shadows.

PORTRAIT COOL TIP: Try to avoid firing the flash when shooting portraits in sunset or sunrise. This time the light is red and warm, the bluish light of flash can make the portraits look unnaturally cold.


Saturday, 1 December 2007

Light 1: Landscapes in sunlight.


Light is the most important factor in art of photography.

Photography literally means, “To write with light”. But which light? Not any, as different type of light is required to shoot different subjects. Choosing the right light can run or ruin your shot.

First we will discuss the light which started the photographic history, and is completely free of cost. Sunlight.

You can get a lot of light from that ball of burning gas; however, you’ll have to get a bit tricky to get the best light needed for your shot.

In this post, we will learn how to use sunlight for shooting landscapes.

Landscapes come out in their best shape in sunlight. However, overhead sunlight can be more damaging to the beauty of a landscape than enhancing it. Our eyes, being accustomed to rely on shadows for the sense of depth, finds a landscape rather "flat" in the mid-day due to the short shadows casted by the overhead sun.

It is always better to shoot the landscape in the morning or late afternoon, when the sun is casting long shadows. In fact, sunset provides a warm golden light over the terrain, which I prefer for the Landscapes, over the morning pink light.

Nonetheless, it is possible to get a reasonably good photograph in the mid-day light, if the subject is compelling enough, and you are looking for descriptive shots like those found in a travel brochure.

LANDSCAPE COOL TIP: Always look for some clouds in the sky. Cloudless skies appear dull and uninteresting. If you don’t get clouds, try to keep as little sky in the frame as possible.

Next post- Portraits in Sunlight.