Lighting in Wildlife Photography
The best photographs of wildlife are rarely taken at midday with the sun directly overhead. At noon the sun throws harsh nasty looking shadows that spoil most photographs. Lighting can make or break a shot so plan ahead, know what you want but also experiment with light as it can be very surprising.
Sunrise and Sunset
Early morning or late afternoon with the sun lower on the horizon provides the wildlife photographer the opportunity to take beautiful warm images with attractive lighting. The beautiful yellow and orange hues that are captured at these times of the day really set them apart from any other time. Get up early and back out in the evening to capture the best at this time of day.
There are a couple of elements that are worth thinking about when it comes to sunrise and sunset photography – the use of objects, timing, focus, creativity, light metering, and clouds and the weather. Firstly, many photographers recommend finding an object apart from the sun to use in their photo. By having an object, such as a tree, a silhouette of a person, a church spire, or some foreground detail, it adds value to the photo and attracts the eye. Some people may want to try getting tree branches in the picture to frame the sun.
Timing is another vital factor of sunrise and sunset photography. It is important to know when the sun will rise or set. After getting an idea of when the sun will rise or set, it is a good idea to arrive on location early. Arriving an hour early allows people to inspect the surroundings of the scene and understand where would be a good spot to take photos. For sunrises, the best time for a photo may be in the winter because the days are shorter so people do not have to wake up too early to see the sun rise.
It is also important for photographers to look at the camera’s focus. Many cameras have an autofocus ready light to confirm that they are focused. However, some photographers recommend setting the camera on a manual setting and focusing the camera on infinity to lock the focus, hence avoiding a blurry photo.
This form of lighting can be really dramatic especially if water droplets are in the frame. Backlighting also gives the subject a rim light arpund its profile really making the subject stand out. There is much to consider when using this technique if frustration and disappointment are to be avoided. However, once mastered there is little doubt that backlighting can be magical and will add both drama and visual impact to your photographs and diversity and interest to your portfolio. Backlighting will enhance mist, rain and haze adding creativity and atmosphere to landscape images.
Since sidelight is similar to backlight, why do we use one and not the other? There are factors that influence our choice. The first is that one may look more appealing than the other. Back and side light are effects meant to be subtitle. If the sidelight or backlight is too strong, it may become distracting and call attention to itself. You want your photos to look great with the illusion of being real. The second reason a sidelight might be preferred over a backlight and vice versa is that the position of the light might affect more in the shot than just the subjects back. It could cause unwanted double shadows, which means your shots do not look natural. When lighting a shot, you want the light to seem motivated and the shadows all in one direction.
lighting is as important to photography as mastering the principles of camera and lens. It is equally important as understanding photographic film or the intricacies of the digital image. If you get right down to it, light is the true subject of every photograph. Snap-shooters see a subject they like, point the camera, and shoot. Nothing wrong with that: millions of nice photographs get made that way. Photographers, on the other hand, are on a never-ending search for interesting light. Our subjects are important, of course. If we grasp the fact that without light there isno photograph, we set ourselves up for an important transformation as image-makers, made all the easier as we master our camera and it's controls.
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