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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