Variety with a low sun

This was an exercise to demonstrate some of the advantages of shooting when the sun is low in the sky. As the sun moves through the sky, as some of my previous posts explain, it takes on different characteristics.

With the white balance set to ‘daylight’ I set up my subject in four different positions at the same time of the day with bright sun to light the scene. I took many different shots of these four positions and then decided on the four that I liked. I had to work relatively fast as living on the equator means that the sun moves very quickly leaving me without the luxury of be able to spend a couple of hours taking photographs the rich warm colouring of the late afternoon sun. All were taken after 5pm.

The four images are below with a brief description of the characteristics seen in each.

Frontal lighting - Centre weighed exposure

Frontal lighting – Centre weighed exposure

As the low sun hits the model directly from the front it causes some highlights (overexposure) on the trunk and feet. There is a deep shadow cast behind it. I had to make sure I didn’t cast a shadow when taking the photograph hence I am at a low angle. Unlike earlier times in the day the light is more forgiving and there are not too many hot spots as the light becomes naturally diffused through the atmosphere. The colour temperature is noticeably warm and saturates the colours.

Side light - centre weighted exposure

Side lighting – centre weighted exposure

The deep shadow now moves to the left hand side of the elephant as the sun hits from the right. Again we have some hotspots on the trunk, feet and now on the back leg, ear and eye as well. These are all prominent physical points on the model and catch the light accordingly. As the elephant’s face and body move in to relief, the shadows form quite noticeably from the middle of it’s trunk and across the rest of the form. The curved trunk throws a shadow across the left side foot. The shot was centre weighed to account for the dynamic change of lighting from right to left.

Backlighting - Spot metering

Backlighting – Spot metering

I could have gone one of two ways with this shot. Either I could have exposed for the bright sky behind in causing a silhouette of the elephant or do as I did here and use the spot meter to expose for the elephant leaving the sky in the background blown out (overexposed). In fact after taking the shot and looking at the result it would suggest that I have some light reflecting back form behind me as I would expect more contrast on the model than there is. It appeared the light source was directly from behind it but there is clearly a lot of light falling on either side of the model too. This image is quite a bit cooler than the first too as i shot straight towards the sun rather than away from it. The colours are more muted than in the other three images.

Edge lighting - Spot meter

Edge lighting – Spot metering

Edge lighting is not a technique I usually set out to do but I like the result. This is obtained by shooting towards the sun but having the subject against a darker background and the light just above it. The softness of the light just about stops the back of the head blowing out but instead gives a nice smooth highlight to the top of the head, ear and rear leg. The colours are nicely saturated due to the even lighting but I find the shadow in the foreground quite distracting. Again, another warm photograph.

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