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Thread: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

  1. #1
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    New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    This isn't yet accessible using links on the main site, but as usual, it's being posted here first...

    Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    This is a really important topic that hasn't been specifically addressed in the tutorials yet. It was a lot of fun putting together the interactive diagram near the beginning, since I've never seen each of the lighting components separated out like that. Make sure to move your mouse over the "direct," "skylight" and "bounced" labels.


    New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    It focuses on time of day and weather (lighting direction will be treated separately in a follow-up tutorial). I'm also planning on sharing a sunset/sunrise calculator page that is geared towards photographers (it will illustrate things like the time of dawn and dusk, where the sun will be rising or setting, etc). Expect that page to be available in a week or two at the most.

    As usual, please let me know if you feel anything is unclear, if you notice any typos, or just want to add something from your own experience.

    Many thanks!
    Last edited by McQ; 13th September 2011 at 12:54 AM.

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    The Blue Boy's Avatar
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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    As per, that is mint mate.

    I think the next step is showing how to simply manipulate natural light using simple things like mirrors, white paper sheets and/or reflectors.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Good stuff, Sean. Can't see any obvious errors or omissions.

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Hello Sean,
    Very good work as usual. A few notes you may wish to consider.
    Variation in day length far north or south = short winter days = occasional day long golden hour.
    Sunset often has more atmospheric dust than sunrise = some difference in colour especially clouds.
    Bright overcast often very good for plant and flower photography colours zing.

    Thanks and regards,

    Nick.

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Yet another great tutorial. The interactive diagram as well as the further sections using the golf ball throughout are very clear examples of how the light changes the appearance of the subject. I especially like the way you've kept it relatively simple with the differences in colour, contrast and the direction of the sun for each stage during the day before getting onto cloudcover and other weather. Well structured and feeds into other tutorials very well. Well done! Looking forward to the next installment on lighting direction.

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Mark, Donald, Nick & Trace: thanks for the feedback -- it's really appreciated! Nick: yes, I should probably also mention the influence of dust/haze and its asymmetry with sunrises and sunsets. I'll also add something about the advantages of (bright) overcast light for colors and close-up work.

    Quote Originally Posted by nickjohnson View Post
    Variation in day length – far north or south = short winter days = occasional day long golden hour.
    This will be addressed once the sunset/sunrise/twilight calculator is up and running. I didn't want to get too much into location-specific considerations without a way for people to easily see how this applies to wherever they are.

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Hi Sean,

    I agree (with Trace) these were good examples.

    I also agree (with Donald), I didn't see any errors or 'trip over' any sentences in the reading.

    I was going to mention what Nick did too, but you answered that point. That RonH chap up in Norway must get sick of 'the golden hour' in summer

    A worthy addition to the site,

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by McQ View Post
    Mark, Donald, Nick & Trace: thanks for the feedback -- it's really appreciated! Nick: yes, I should probably also mention the influence of dust/haze and its asymmetry with sunrises and sunsets. I'll also add something about the advantages of (bright) overcast light for colors and close-up work.



    This will be addressed once the sunset/sunrise/twilight calculator is up and running. I didn't want to get too much into location-specific considerations without a way for people to easily see how this applies to wherever they are.
    Oh Sean a sunset/sunrise/twilight calculator? Thank you very much you do spoil us!
    Question any chance of working a moon rise and set + direction thingy into the same tool? Maybe I'm asking too much over egging the pudding again.

    Regards,

    Nick.

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by nickjohnson View Post
    Oh Sean – a sunset/sunrise/twilight calculator? Thank you very much – you do spoil us!
    Question – any chance of working a moon rise and set + direction thingy into the same tool? Maybe I'm asking too much – over egging the pudding – again.
    @Nick: Rise and Set times for sun and moon can be found here. This doesn't account for local elevated horizons, of course, but it's a good reference.

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Thank you for a great tutorial. Very easy to understand even for an amateur. I look forward to using the information as I go along.

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Dave & Liz: thanks for the feedback! Nick & Al: please see below.

    Quote Originally Posted by nickjohnson View Post
    Oh Sean – a sunset/sunrise/twilight calculator? Thank you very much – you do spoil us!
    Question – any chance of working a moon rise and set + direction thingy into the same tool? Maybe I'm asking too much – over egging the pudding – again.
    I'm toying with the idea of also indicating moonrise/moonset, its position/angle in sky and its phases, but I don't want the calculator to appear too busy, so this might be included in a separate calculator later. I've actually got a beta version of the daylight calculator ready right now, so if you're interested in providing feedback, just send me a PM and I'll provide a temporary link to it. That goes for anyone else as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Snarkbyte View Post
    This doesn't account for local elevated horizons, of course, but it's a good reference.
    Thanks for sharing the link. That's helpful, but the one I plan on adding will hopefully be even better! It will use custom calculations based on whatever location you're at -- not just in major cities -- for example. Even within the same timezone, the sunrise/set times can vary for seemingly small changes in position. If you're on a smartphone or have location sharing enabled in your browser, the soon-to-be-added calculator will estimate your current location by default when the page is loaded, for example. The direction of the sun during sunrise and set will also be illustrated on an interactive map. It will also hopefully be more graphical and geared towards photographers.
    Last edited by McQ; 13th September 2011 at 11:14 PM.

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    I found that tutorial extremely helpful! Thank you for sharing. I wish one of the CIC experts could come show me live examples, in person, or even in a video!

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Hi Sean, excellent tutorial, very clear and easy to follow.

    On the subject of Sun and Moon calculators, there are free applications for cell phones that provide both, such as Sundriod and Sun Board. Sun Board even includes a GPS-like map that rotates like a compass as you move the phone. As they are interactive, location specific, and available when you are in the field. They can be very handy when there isn't a PC available.
    Last edited by FrankMi; 14th September 2011 at 08:28 PM.

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Sean, I have captured some wonderful sunset "golden hour" images where the colors just sing. I am wondering if your images at the beginning of this thread were in the "natural" and not enhanced on the computer at all? Like enhanced saturation. I have found that the "colors in the image" must be there - natural golden hour colors - or you can not do anything to digitally enhance the image.

    Thanks for your work to produce these informative threads. Ro

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Roena King View Post
    Sean, I have captured some wonderful sunset "golden hour" images where the colors just sing. I am wondering if your images at the beginning of this thread were in the "natural" and not enhanced on the computer at all? Like enhanced saturation. I have found that the "colors in the image" must be there - natural golden hour colors - or you can not do anything to digitally enhance the image.
    Hi Ro, thanks for sharing your experience! Well, no images from a camera are truly "natural," but that's another issue entirely . Getting back to your question though: the 2nd and 3rd images had their white balance made cooler relative to the camera's auto white balance (which didn't look like it did in person), and the saturation of reds was actually *decreased* a tad because the high-contrast reflection off of the rock came dangerously close to clipping those colors in a standard display. Other than that though, nothing else was done in post-processing besides the typical steps such as resizing and sharpening. Hope this helps clarify.

  16. #16

    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Sean, this is great stuff (again!).
    Your sample images and the interactive diagram in the beginning are excellent.

    The only critical comment I'd like to make concerns the title / mixture of topics. I feel that "NATURAL LIGHT IN PHOTOGRAPHY" advertises more than is covered, e.g., the use of northern bound windows in portrait photography.

    A more narrow title such as "The Importance of Time of Day in Photography" doesn't work either, because you are covering weather as well. Something along the lines of "Weather and Time of Day in Photography" would work, but I'm wondering whether it wouldn't be better to separate the topics "Time of Day" and "Weather"?

    EDIT: You may dodge the whole issue with "advertising too much" (as I put it) by using a title like "Natural Light in Landscape Photography". That narrows the scope but nicely encompasses time of day and weather.

    Just trying to make helpful suggestions. Keep up the fantastic work!

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    I enjoyed this tutorial very much. Besides the fact, that it formulates very clearly observations made in the field, it shows that any light is good for taking pictures, provided you take the pictures the light at hand makes great. In a way, I felt that the tutorial was a good argument againts people, who pretend that the golden hours are the only ones that provide great landscapes. Unfortunately, the discussion above conveys the impression that what people are most interested in it that golden hours calculator... To me, those golden pictures are just flattering the mind, like all those smiling people in magazines or those Hi-Fi installations, which overdo bass and treble... How many pictures are told to be good, just because of that flattering effect?

    Let me take just 2 counterexamples:
    - http://www.georgaerni.ch/arbeiten-wo...lozaen-galerie. All but one pictures are taken under overcast weather conditions.
    - http://www.rogerfrei.com/. Go to artworks / nox lunae: all pictures are taken in moonlight.

    Starting with the idea, that every kind of light can produce a good picture, the issues are:
    - elaborating strategies to be at the right place at the right moment for the picture you intend to do, if you are a planner
    - evaluating the light at hand to find out, which kind of picture it makes good, among those you have in mind while walking around.
    More generally, the issue is which is your photographic intent and how it intersects with various kinds of light and what they do to pictures.

    Back to the tutorial: Is the light really better on the second picture of the Arch than on the first? Most people would probably say yes because contrast and drama raises interest like sex and crime in the newspaper. My opinion is that this is disputable. With a little bit more fill-in light and local contrast on a fairly sized print, the first picture would make it very good in a small series of nostalgic pictures.

    Reto

    P.S. "Using appropriately various light conditions in outdoor photography" would probably cover fairly well the content of the tutorial

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Don't forget that 'The Photographers Ephemeris' gives you the postion and times of the rising and setting of both the sun and moon for any specific spot in the world. It's a free download to a PC and can be purchased for an Iphone (which I don't have!

    The quality of light in this neck of the woods (central North Island, New Zealand) is much harsher than in the northern hemisphere where the light seems to be much softer

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    Re: New Tutorial: Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography

    Class A, Reto and Keith: thanks for your feedback! Class A: Yes, I agree that the title is quite encompassing. I struggled with that a bit and actually changed it once more after making it public. The problem is that it also isn't specific to landscape photos, even though that's probably its biggest application. One could just as easily use some of the advice for outdoor portraits. What if I instead used "Intro to Natural Light in Photography" or something like that? That would just be in the page text as the header though, since "Making the Most..." is more probably action-oriented, and wasn't used in the page itself either since it doesn't fit

    Reto: yes, only the qualities of light are objective (contrast, color, direction, etc); which type is "better" or "worse" really comes down to intent. I wanted a clear example of how lighting could be used to make an image more evocative and striking, and I think that the lighting on the right does that for the vast majority of viewers. As you say though, ultimately it's inherently subjective.

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