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Archive 2012 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes ou...
  
 
jrs5fg
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


http://www.flickr.com/photos/photopoesie/7772085852/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/photopoesie/7772108302/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/photopoesie/7772076890/

I hear "harsh sunlight" being talked about by fill flash users all the time-- but to me, fill-flash photos are kind of boring and are less contrasty. I love to bathe subjects in sunlight, especially at morning or dusk -- and a lot of fill flash examples I see taken in the day look kind of "unnatural" IMO.



Aug 13, 2012 at 08:22 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


Of course natural light can be soft...especially in the morning or at dusk. On a clear day at noon, though...

Sure, a lot of the fill-flash examples we see don't look very good. A lot of the natural-light examples I see don't look very good, either.

Whether 100% natural, 100% artifical, or some mix of the two, good photography is not easy, but when well done the lighting source doesn't call attention to itself -- the subject does.

Edited on Aug 13, 2012 at 09:00 AM · View previous versions



Aug 13, 2012 at 08:40 AM
Guari
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


BrianO wrote:
Whether 100% natural, 100% artifical, or some mix of the two, good photography is not easy, but when well done the lighting source doesn't call attention to itself -- the subject does.


so true



Aug 13, 2012 at 08:57 AM
ChrisCoy
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


Don't stroke your own ego too hard, you'll throw your arm out.


Aug 13, 2012 at 09:01 AM
Stephaniespix
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


Chris, you made me laugh, good one



Aug 13, 2012 at 10:31 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


You mention loving to bathe subjects in sunlight, but understand as Brian mentions the time of day is very significant regarding sunlight. But also, there is usually a terminology difference between "sunlight" vs. "open shade". Both are ambient in nature and are derived from the sun, but the two are very different in "quality" @ harsh (specular) vs. soft (diffuse) as well as color temp and intensity.

In the last image in particular you are using a combination of side lighting and open shade as illumination from the indirect overhead sky lighting (fill) and lighting from the "direct" sun (key) that is raking across your subject. The remainder of the image is being "filled" by the indirect ambient that is coming from the overhead sky. The "blue hair" in the first one is a dead give away, as well as the magenta tones where the direct & indirect temps feather/blend somewhat. The partial cyanic sclera in the last one also gives it away as you have your subject looking away from the direct sunlight.

Here (imo) is the greatest value of using (underpowered) fill flash ... to bridge the gap between color temp of direct vs. indirect ambient/sun. Personally, I'm not a big fan of blue hair or cyanic eyes. I understand your point @ poorly used fill flash, but using the examples of poor technique of others as a reason for avoiding application of a helpful/good technique might be a bit folly.

So, while you suggest that you are "bathing" your subject in sunlight (and you are), you are using much more indirect sunlight (i.e. soft) than you might be giving credit to. Take note of the building in the background of the second image. The two sides of the building are in very different light and it is easy to see that one side is in direct sunlight and the other side is in "open shade". Now compare the illumination of the building with the illumination of your subject and you'll see a similar mixture of subject illumination using open shade.

Yes, sunlight can be both very specular and it can be very diffuse whether coming directly from the sun, or via the overhead sky. When the sun is more directly overhead, it's specularity (and color) become more homogenized with the overhead sky, yet is largely overpowering its more diffuse counterpart. As the time of day (and angle of the direct sunlight) changes to late afternoon or early morning, the separation of the warmer, direct sunlight from the cooler, indirect overhead sky becomes greater.

Understanding how the two play with each other as the time of day progresses is good stuff. As Brian mentioned, in the mid-day hours, the two act more as "one" and as such is dominated more by the specularity of the direct sunlight. In this regard, the diffuse fill characteristic of the overhead sky is rendered ineffective, so there is no "soft fill". But, shoot at a later time when you can get angular separation between the direct sunlight from the overhead sky and you have opportunity for having "soft" ambient fill.

Kudos to finding light that you like to shoot in ... but understand that the degree of specularity and diffusion varies throughout the changing day as the two are either more aligned, or more greatly separated. Take a look at your pics again and I think you'll see just how much indirect "soft light" (albeit still ambient derived from the sun) you are using to complementary "bathe" your subject in rather than direct sunlight only.

If you compare your subject to the background areas, it is easy to see that your subject is not fully in the direct light of the sun. In that regard, it might be a bit of a misnomer to say you are bathing your subject in sunlight (usually considered as "direct" sunlight), while absolutely true that sunlight was the only source ... but it comes in two forms.

I think that when most people are talking about the challenges of sunlight and use of fill regarding the "harshness" of sunlight ... the are usually talking about when they are using sunlight in its more dominant specular variety rather than at those times when the specularity and diffuse nature are more equitably present to provide its own naturally softer fill as the means for achieving aesthetically appealing contrast levels.

Again, kudos for finding usage of ambient lighting that appeals to your aesthetic ... but you just might want to consider developing good fill flash as something to add to your arsenal rather than dismiss it based on others who haven't developed good technique with it.

HTH



Edited on Aug 13, 2012 at 12:25 PM · View previous versions



Aug 13, 2012 at 11:01 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


ChrisCoy wrote:
Don't stroke your own ego too hard, you'll throw your arm out.

A little snarky ... but



Aug 13, 2012 at 12:26 PM
RDKirk
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


jrs5fg wrote:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/photopoesie/7772085852/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/photopoesie/7772108302/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/photopoesie/7772076890/

I hear "harsh sunlight" being talked about by fill flash users all the time-- but to me, fill-flash photos are kind of boring and are less contrasty. I love to bathe subjects in sunlight, especially at morning or dusk -- and a lot of fill flash examples I see taken in the day look kind of "unnatural" IMO.


Fake controversy. It's the mid-day sun that photographers avoid. A great many will certainly tout the beauty of morning and dusk light (calling it "sweet light").



Aug 13, 2012 at 01:41 PM
boingyman
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


ChrisCoy wrote:
Don't stroke your own ego too hard, you'll throw your arm out.

lol



Aug 13, 2012 at 06:50 PM
rico
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


jrs5fg wrote:
I hear "harsh sunlight" being talked about by fill flash users all the time-- but to me, fill-flash photos are kind of boring and are less contrasty. I love to bathe subjects in sunlight, especially at morning or dusk -- and a lot of fill flash examples I see taken in the day look kind of "unnatural" IMO.

As noted already, your examples do not represent illumination by direct sunlight. I'm a fan of hard light, whether the sun or studio lights. Sunlight at noon is both hard and very bright, so you have to be aware of squinting subjects and prevailing fill (image 1 below). On a clear day, shadows are blue unless you find ways to suppress the sky (trees, buildings). Early or late sunlight can be less bright, but still hard and quite yellow, with shadows still blue (2). I hate the blue cast - and can't afford relocation to Mars - so best light on Terra is a day with very light cloud cover. This condition yields distinct shadows, -1 EV exposure, and no blue (3). I can achieve the same effect in studio with fresnel lighting and neutral fill (4).

(1)


(2)


(3)


(4)




Aug 14, 2012 at 05:00 AM
 

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RDKirk
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


Here is an example of low, direct sun shining through a hole in the leaves of a tree used like a spotlight:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rdkirk/7781003404

In this case, I had to ask the model to keep her eyes closed and then pop them open ("with your toothpaste smile") at my command.



Aug 14, 2012 at 01:10 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


rico ... diggin' #2 @ showing the diff @ warm direct & cool indirect.

RD ... nice shot
Btw ... +1 @ tanstaafl



Aug 14, 2012 at 01:27 PM
whitewash
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


Those three images you posted all look like shade to me. The next three in the set are more representative of direct sunlight.


Aug 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM
sic0048
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


whitewash wrote:
Those three images you posted all look like shade to me. The next three in the set are more representative of direct sunlight.


Not necessarily all shade (although I agree that some are in shade), but all three were taken in the morning light (before 9am). The OP is just trying to stir up trouble IMHO. He is trying to debunk the myth that any sunlight is bad and everything must be lighted with artificial light. That myth doesn't exist of course because we all know that natural light can be totally amazing. There are times where natural light is terrible, but it generally doesn't happen at 8:30am either.



Aug 16, 2012 at 02:13 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


jrs5fg wrote:
...fill-flash photos are kind of boring and are less contrasty.


I think it depends a lot on the conditions.

Here are two shots taken in bright sun from above and behind. I added a fill flash in the second shot, and I think it looks better.













Aug 18, 2012 at 05:25 PM
RDKirk
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


The flash fill does look better.



Aug 18, 2012 at 05:52 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


Nice comp pics Brian.

The flash fill provides for a greater contrast light source than the overhead sky (giant softbox). Without the flash fill, your subject will be illuminated with most ultra-diffuse, low contrast light possible ... works for some subjects or renderings, not for others.

Not to suggest that either is right vs. wrong ... but if you blast a subject that would render well with soft light using a specular source, it shows too punchy. Conversely, if you only use super-soft light skylight, not only do you have an exposure issue to contend with, but also a low contrast lighting that could leave a lot on the table.

+1 @ conditions ... and how much fill you add to go along with those conditions. It's really no different than garnering good control over your studio lighting. The problem most people have is they don't account for the contrast and color variance that the fill is providing / adding.

Many simply either blast away, or they despise the blasted look and dismiss it's use altogether ... never taking the time to learn the nuance of fill flash in various ambient settings.

Brian's comparison shot does a nice job of showing the contrast level difference between the fill and non-fill subjects. It also shows the difference @ contrast between the "filled" subject and the "non-filled" background where the fill didn't reach quite as strongly (i.e. falloff).

For those who may think Brian's fill shot is too much contrast and argue against it's use ... ummm, that's what those little "+/-" control thingies on your camera / flash are for, so you CAN dial it in to your taste. Same goes for zoom head / diffuser / bounce etc. ... i.e. it's all about exercising a varying degree of control to achieve your intended results.



Aug 18, 2012 at 08:12 PM
rico
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


I dunno, Brian, the scene looks like full overcast: no shadows, no rimlight. The fill is good and does appear natural. Example below was taken yesterday, first image processed from my new D5100 (I need to dial down saturation). Here, fill isn't so much blue as virtually absent because of dense tree cover. Key is mid-afternoon sun in a cloudless sky.





Aug 19, 2012 at 03:41 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · what's this about sunlight being harsh? it often comes out soft to me


RustyBug wrote:
...For those who may think Brian's fill shot is too much contrast and argue against it's use ... ummm, that's what those little "+/-" control thingies on your camera / flash are for, so you CAN dial it in to your taste.


I used -2/3 FEC on that one. As you say, it's a matter of taste, but that was the level I liked; it helped the white feathers come out white and the middle-gray feathers come out middle gray. If I'd increased the overall exposure to get that, I think the BG would have been too light.

rico wrote:
I dunno, Brian, the scene looks like full overcast: no shadows, no rimlight.


Nope. The sun is coming from low and behind. It's filtered through some tall trees, and partially blocked by the rock outcropping, though, so you're right that's it's not the same as noon-day sun in June. (This was 4:20PM on January 30th at latitude 47.)

If you look at the shadow cast by the overhang on the bird's perch rock, and also the rim light on the bird's back, you can see that it wasn't highly overcast...unlike the more typical 307 days of gray we have in Seattle most years.




Aug 19, 2012 at 10:53 PM





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