It’s All About the Light – Landscape Photography
We have been teaching photographic workshops in landscape photography for many years and what makes our work different is the use of light. We only shoot in those magic hours when the light is warm and perfect. What many people don’t realize it there are lots of different types of light that affect the quality of your landscape photography. How you approach this light will make a huge difference in the quality of your images. That magic time of light for landscapes of course is sunrise and sunset, but specifically what other types of light will make or break your images? I’m going to talk about a few with some of my favorite images.
(also called bounced or diffused light)
This particular light occurs when there is direct sunlight reflected off an adjacent surface. The canyons in the Southwest are perfect for this type of light as the color of the canyon walls is bounced back and reflected giving a warm soft glow to the walls. The quality of this light is soft, even and beautiful.
This light is found on overcast and foggy days and is very soft and bluish. The color of this light comes from the whole sky, so acts like one big soft box and in the right situation can be very dramatic or not so much…
A typical backlit picture will have a rim of the sun’s rays around the subject, or you will be able to see the sun as a bright spot in the photograph.
If you are using a small aperture, you will be able to get a “sun star” effect like this one.
Direct sunlight Is usually found approximately one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. This light is both intense and direct and unforgiving in many ways, casting strong shadows. This light works great for black and white and can sometimes be overly intense for color photography.
Morning and Evening Horizontal Light
This light is the warm horizontal light of sunrise and sunset. Horizontal because the suns rays are cast in a horizontal direction as the sun is rising and setting. This is the prime light for photography due to its combination of low contrast and warm tones. Objects lit directly by this light may seem to glow, as if illuminated from within, with details emerging with clarity. Learn to use this light on a regular basis and you will be amazed at the results.
In landscape photography, open shade consists of areas not lit by direct sunlight. This is very soft light and will be common in forested areas.
Combination Light – Direct and Diffused
Here are some examples of combination light, both direct and diffused.
Fire and Manmade Light
You don’t really think of manmade light in landscapes, but here it is!
Try shooting the same subject in the exact same location before sunrise and after sunset. What are the differences in the light? Is the color and tone different?
Holly Higbee-Jansen has been exploring her fascination with light through photography since she was a young child. Holly teaches digital photography both online and in person, as a personal photo coach, blogger and guide for Jansen Photo Expeditions. Holly can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org