Lens-Artists Challenge #198: Using Light and Shadows in Nature

For this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge, Patti asks us to utilize light and/or shadows in our photography. I took the first photo during a stormy sunset at Salt Creek Beach, Dana Point, California. It is an example of the effect I try to capture when utilizing both light and shadows at the same time.

Of course, if you’re in Hawaii and there’s bright sun and no shadows, it can create a different dramatic effect, like this next photo. I wanted to capture how brillantly blue the ocean was against the dark rocks, and I got lucky that the sunlight helped with this effect.

Sandy Beach Park at Wawamalu, Oahu, Hawaii.

Because I take photos of unpredictable wildlife, I really just try to use the lighting to my advantage in the moment. I have been using the manual modes on my camera more frequently when trying to capture animals, since I can’t change the light that they’re in. This hummingbird was perched on a garden branch, but it was bright outside. I was able to put my camera on aperature priority mode and get a nice bokeh effect behind the bird, despite the blazing sun overhead. I wasn’t happy with the brightness and washed-out look of the hummingbird, so I kept shooting. (Next time, I will also adjust other settings on my camera–but it can get overwhelming.)

Rufous hummingbird perched in a garden in bright lighting conditions; captured with 300mm DSLR lens, iso 200, f/7.1, 1/125.

The same hummingbird was flying all over the succulents in the garden, and I was trying to take as many photos as possible–quickly, since the hummingbird was fast. In this next photo, the hummingbird landed in the shadows, with a bit of sunlight shining on its back. I didn’t realize how many colors were in its feathers, including these interesting teal ones, until the sun shone on just that part. And since its head was under the shadow of a plant, I was able to capture a lot more details of its face without it looking washed out (and without me fiddling with the manual settings, trying to remember which one to change).

Immature Rufous hummingbird perched in shadows of succulent; captured with 260mm DSLR lens, iso 200, f/14, 1/125.

Here is another example of using the shadows of a plant to help with taking bird photos on a sunny day. This cute little couple was found snuggling under leaves at the Africa bird aviary at the San Diego Zoo. I tried to take the birds’ photos when they were out in the sun, but I could not get as much details. Thankfully, they flew under this leaf right in front of me. In the shadows, you can see all of the Red-Cheeked Cordon-Bleu birds’ colors and some detailing in the feathers. The male is on the left with the brighter red cheeks.

Other times, I like to use brighter light in the background to highlight silhouettes or shadows, as I did with this green gecko. Most of his body was hidden by the broad leaf he was laying on, but the sunlight was behind him, causing a sillouette effect of the hidden part of his body.

A green gecko peeks out from edge of an aloe leaf in San Diego, California; captured with 300mm DSLR lens.

I have also attempted to use light in the background when I am taking landscape photos like this next one. I wanted a silhouette of the saguaro cactus with the vast desert behind it. The cactus was in the shadows, but it worked out, highlighting both the desert landscape in the sun and the cactus in the shadows at the same time.

Sonoran desert floor extends behind silhouette of saguaro cactus.

Regardless of lighting, when I am out in nature trying to take photos, I don’t hesitate. I just try to figure out how the sunlight or shadows will help highlight the image and take as many shots as I can from different angles and in different lighting. I used to think that shadows were not a good thing in my photo, but now I think that there are plenty of times where the shadows help with the artistic compostion of the photo.

Also sharing for Terri’s Sunday Stills – Teal or Aqua color challenge and Jez’s Water Water Everywhere (WWE).

Published by Dawn Palmer

I am an avid nature and ecology lover and enjoy sharing my photography in my blog writings. I will often be out early in the morning or late in the evening with my camera, trying to capture the peacefulness and beauty around me.

27 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Challenge #198: Using Light and Shadows in Nature

  1. Spectacular photography Dawn! Light and shadows feature heavily in any image, and you nailed these. Love your Rufus hummer shots and the sweet teal birds! Of course, the shades of teals and aqua are amazing there in Oahu! Great to see you continuing with Sunday Stills!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Your photography is unique and captures the beauty of nature. I just snap pictures but you have educated me to the different possible perspectives to showcase what is meaningful in a picture. I especially liked the variety of colors and shadows

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! ๐Ÿ˜Š Itโ€™s always fun trying to get better and better shots of the hummingbirds. ๐Ÿ˜Ž I feel like I canโ€™t take credit for the Hawaii photoโ€ฆitโ€™s so beautiful there. Hard to mess up photos of it! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful! I liked all of these photo responses to the challenge. Perhaps a favorite would be the little gecko peeking out with his shadow revealing all of his body.


  3. This is a great collection, Dawn. Your explanation of how you approached each shot was so helpful for us to understand your thought process. I can’t pick a favorite here. They’re all excellent captures.

    Liked by 1 person

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