|Beautiful Bright Sunny Day|
Ask any photographer and he will tell you, the worse time for landscape photography is in the bright midday light. The rest of the world will insist that a bright and sunny day is a glorious time to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, and they assume that it is also a great time to shoot. We photographers must scoff and patiently explain that the bright sun creates stark contrasts, with both deep, fathomless shadows and brilliant highlights, which are impossible, given the limited dynamic range of both film and digital sensors, to capture completely.
The human eye has a dynamic range which is probably only slightly broader than current DSLRs but, by virtue of the ability of our eyes to seamlessly transition from dark to light and our brains capacity to assemble an image from this input, we perceive a far greater dynamic range. A single DSLR image may capture a dynamic range of 8-10 f stops, but, by constantly adjusting to the brightness of the area of our attention, our eyes can appear to record more than 24 stops. The camera works like an eye whose pupil has been fixed, which is why you are given sun glasses after your eyes have been dilated at the ophthalmologist.
|Exposed for the Highlights|
Enough physiology. The point is that eyes can fully appreciate the lovely contrast between the brilliant light and the cool inviting shadow, but the same conditions have always posed a challenge for photographers.
|Exposed for the Shadows|
I remember, from my film days, a constant frustration with the inability to capture scenes such as when dappled sunlight illuminated a lovely trail in the woods. I always had to choose between exposing for the shadows and, as a result, blowing out all detail in the highlights or exposing for the highlights and losing the shadows.
|Full Dynamic Range - Single Image|
If we call the warm light of sunrises and sunset the “Golden Hours”, for us the midday sun is the “Lead Hours”, but the fault isn’t in the light. The real difficulty comes from the limitations of our photographic tools and techniques to capture what the eye can see and interpret.
I have discussed all of this in greater detail in my article this week in the New England Photography GuildBlog. As I said there; The good news is that, with the expanded capabilities of modern digital cameras and powerful image editing tools, we can better capture the magic of the bright sunny day. Our job as photographers is to stop whining about the "terrible light" and start finding ways to push beyond the limitations of our medium, and capture the midday glory that is so apparent to everyone else.
Within the Guild article I discuss how the combination of a properly exposed digital image or images can be rendered in editing software such as Lightroom or Photoshop, to capture the full dynamic that range that we can perceive. Something I never could accomplish in my beloved film days.
I also reviewed other methods that can bring the “bright sunny day” within the range of our limited digital sensors. I discussed the use of shade, fill flash, reflectors and diffusers. Of course, I couldn’t leave out the value of a polarizing filter to cut through glaring reflection to allow the rich colors to shine through.
I refer you to my Guild article for this discussion. In this blog, I wanted to present a Gallery of images that that try to capture the true beauty of the “beautiful sunny day”. Every kind of light offers its own attractions and challenges and I encourage you not to hide from the Lead Hour. Accept the challenge and glory in the brilliant sunlight!
In the Shade
|Soft Shade Light|
Check out my New England Photography Guild article
"Photography in the Lead Hours"
for more on shooting in the bright sunlight.