Subtleties In The Shade

Harsh direct sun can ruin a shot

I love sunlight. It adds backlit punch to portraits, and lets me shoot at superfast, stop-action shutter speeds. But sunlight can also take something away. Harsh direct sunlight can cast dark shadows that lack detail. When shooting nature, that can be a big minus.

Foliage has lots of subtle detail that gets lost under direct sunlight. That's why many nature shooters prefer open shade or cloudy days for more visually delicate subject matter.

>Sunny Daze: This foliage shot is ruined by harsh sunlight and deep shadows. Note the washed-out highlights and opaque details.






If it's too sunny where you're shooting, there are solutions besides waiting for a change in the weather. If there's someone available to assist you, have them hold something opaque over your subject to block direct light, and shoot in the shade. That might cut out too much light, though.

Or, you can emulate a cloudy day by holding something translucent over your subject, such as a Flashpoint 5-in-1 Reflector, which has a translucent configuration. It's available in up to a 45 inch diameter and collapses down to an easy-to-carry 10-inch disc.


Made in the Shade: Look at the delicate tonalities that come out in this black-and-white nature study, shot under the protective canopy of a thickly-leafed tree.


In color under diffused cloudy skies, we also see greater dynamic range by avoiding the harsh shadows and washed-out highlights created by direct sunlight.

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