We can't always choose our day or time to go out and shoot, sometimes we go when the client can make it, and that often means a daytime shoot in uncertain conditions. It's easy to be negative about this and feel you can't make any good shots because midday light is horrible, but that's not the case.
You can always find something to shoot, and if you maintain that mentality instead of the negative one you will find images out there. You need to focus on what is possible given the conditions, rather than what you could do 'if only'.
Most of all you need to work hard on your composition, when the light is bad, good composition will save you. You can't make a silk purse from a sows ear, as the saying goes; but you can turn in a good image or two by remembering the rules of composition and applying them appropriately.
The image below shows the Wedge Pond beside highway 40 in Kananaskis at 2 pm on a bright sunny afternoon earlier this week. We walked around the waters edge and then waited in a known spot for the wind to drop, during that time I talked about what I was seeing and envisaging, what light is better here and why. I talked about techniques and tools and answered questions about composition. when suddenly a brief calm fell across the pond. I crouched down and made two images to demonstrate the symmetrical composition I was making and we nailed it before the wind returned just a minute or so later.
So, don't give up on harsh daylight, just trust yourself to apply your knowledge of composition to find the images that are out there.
Guiding a tour in Kananaskis last week in the very harsh light of the afternoon sun meant good photo opportunities were few and far between. At 2pm in summer the light is just too harsh for many subjects but it does provide potential for very fast shutter speeds which can help you isolate a subject that is well lit. When I spotted this small island in a mountain lake the sun was bearing down on it with full force yet the water around it was darkened by the reflected shade of the surrounding forest.
The light provided an ideal opportunity to demonstrate this simple method of isolating a subject so I took out the 70-200mm lens, set the aperture to f3.5 and set the shutter speed faster than the 'correct exposure' suggested by the in camera exposure meter. (Obviously I couldn't take a reliable exposure reading from the island as it was in the middle of a lake) I ensured I was more than one stop 'underexposed' as doing so will always darken the shadows of an image but leave the well lit areas acceptable. I fired off a couple of handheld shots for demonstration purposes which, as you can see in the image below provided the result I had aimed for.
So, a good tip for the cold light of day is to find a bright target in a dark background and underexpose a little to really make it pop. In all honesty it's unlikely to produce a show stopping image in the middle of the afternoon, but it will definitely add to your knowledge archives and help you find the light in other conditions too.
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