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.
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.)
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).
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.
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.
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.