Sunday, April 27, 2014

Getting Over Bad Light

"The truth is... there is no such thing as bad light, only bad
attitudes. We all want to be rewarded with shimmering shafts
of light, dancing rainbows and fire in the sky. When we don’t
get nature’s be-jeweled finery we feel ripped off. But nature
rewards those with open minds and open eyes. All we need
is to drop our expectations of ‘trophy’ light and accept the
little gifts to be found in ‘bad’ light. Great photos can be made
anytime, even on grey, drab days."

- Darwin Wiggett, Good Photos in Bad Light

Back on January 12 I blogged about Good and Bad Light.  In that post I said that in landscape photography you have to take the light God has given and work with it.   Good advice I forgot on a recent trip.

On our trip to Charleston SC a couple weeks ago we had planned to go to a couple plantations / gardens to make great photos of blooming flowers in a beautiful garden setting.  Of course the best light for this kind of photography is slightly overcast and that was what I was envisioning for weeks before.  What we got was multiple days of bright sunny cloudless days.

Given bright sunny days, the best conditions  to shoot was going to be during the "golden hour" which is the hour around sunrise or sunset.  Being on the coast  June, our friend Tekii, and I decided to go to the beach or waterfront to catch the sunrise instead.
Folly Beach Pier

The sunrise was beautiful even without the clouds that can add drama to a sunrise.

After breakfast we arrived at Middleton Place and were greeted by bright sunny harsh light.  These are difficult conditions to photograph in due to the high contrast between the brightest parts and the darkest parts of the photo.
First Shot in "Bad Light"
Not wanting to grumble out loud, I thought to myself "this is not going to be a very productive photography day".   

The second day we met up with the Eastman Camera Club and went to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.  Conditions were exactly the same and I'm thinking the same thing as the day before.  Why can't we have some clouds?  

Azaleas and Spanish Moss
Shortly after we arrived one of our group reported they ran into Tony Sweet's wife and said Tony was there shooting.  Tony is one of the best nature photographers and instructors out there and here he was shooting in this terrible light!   At that point I decided I have no reason to grumble about bad light. As Darwin Wiggett said, I need to drop my expectations of ‘trophy’ light and accept the little gifts to be found in ‘bad’ light.  I was forgetting the fact that the Azaleas were at peak bloom and there was little to no wind.  A good friend was there the next weekend and the blooms had started to fall and he had to deal with the wind blowing the flowers around.

Later on I learned that Brenda Tharp was also at Magnolia Plantations that day.  Brenda wrote the very first photography book I bought and one I keep going back to. Two of the best nature photographers in the US were there shooting in the same conditions I was unhappy with.   Who was I to grumble about bad light?

Here's Tony's blog about that day.  Note there is not a word about "bad light" in his blog.
After getting over my mental roadblock I ended up having a good time at both places.   I looked for conditions where the light was not so harsh.   If a scene was evenly lit without deep shadows (Reflecting Pool) there are good photos to be made.  I looked for subjects that were in full shade (Azaleas and Spanish Moss).  If the scene had bright spots and dark shadows then HDR could be used to even out the light (Tree Lined Wall).

Reflecting Pool

Purple Reflections

Tree Lined Wall

These few days around Charleston were a great lesson.  I need to remember to not let my "bad attitudes" get in the way and enjoy what God has created. 

More photos from our trip to Charleston are available in the Charleston and Hilton Head folder

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