The Midday Photo Challenge

As nature photographers, you and I have learned that midday, summer sun is typically a poor light for good looking photos. There is no question that this light causes major problems – an unattractive, harsh toplight; colors that get washed out and even get some unwanted blue; a lack of strong dimensional light and shadow to define and sculpt a composition.

Yet, as nature lovers, you and I also know that nature does not stop “being” because the light is bad. That creates a challenge – how to photograph and represent nature throughout its richness, not just early and late in the day. This is something that has concerned me for a while. If we aren’t showing off nature throughout its life (and midday is a big part of its “life”), then we are not showing the full reality of nature.

So what to do? For me, I want to get nature at all times (a reason why I have been working to photograph bats), so I am going to try to find interesting photos at midday. Here are some ideas that I have found can help:

  • Do close-ups. With close-ups, we have a lot of freedom as to how we photograph them, low, high, this side, that side. That will often give us some interesting light. Because the area photographed is small, we can also control it by shading the background, the subject or both. (I am not a big fan of using diffusers at this time because it shows this particular nature in an unnatural light.)
  • Shoot in the shade. This may give you images with weak contrast, so be prepared to adjust contrast in the computer (Clarity works well here). Also, watch out for overly blue images if you are shooting auto white balance.
  • Look for strong colors and base your composition on them rather than the light. This  may mean you need to get close to something colorful so that you don’t lose color due to distance under the midday light.
  • Try black-and-white. This avoids the color problems, plus you can work contrasts in ways that don’t always require light and shadow.
  • Try black-and-white infrared. Have that old camera you no longer use converted to infrared. I used LifePixel.

About Rob Sheppard

I'm Rob Sheppard and my mission is to connect people and nature through photography with celebration and joy. Nature photography, for me, is about finding ways to create meaning and joy in your photography and connecting people with the natural world. I consider myself a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer. I have been busy over the years creating many books related to photography, including Landscape Photography: From Snapshot to Great Shot, The Magic of Digital Landscape Photography, The Magic of Digital Nature Photography, and the National Geographic Field Guide to Digital Photography. A Nature Photography Manifesto and Reports from the Wild are available from Apple’s iBookstore. I get around as a speaker and workshop leader, and I am a Fellow with the North American Nature Photography Association. I was the long-time editor of the prestigious Outdoor Photographer magazine and presently am a contributing editor. My education was both as a photographer and a naturalist specializing in ecology and botany.
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6 Responses to The Midday Photo Challenge

  1. Rob, You are a true nature lover. I know it’s not easy to do photography in summer. But, you did an excellent job and captured beautiful shots of nature. Thanks for sharing your great photography experience here.

  2. Great job man! Congrats..

  3. Anita Bower says:

    Good suggestions for that time of day we are often told to ignore.

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