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kittykat23uk

How do you capture the magical light?

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Posted (edited)

I see a lot of lovely images of wildlife in really amazing light, like at sunrise or sunset but I never seem to be able to capture this magical feel myself. Does anyone have any tips? :D

Edited by kittykat23uk
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Posted (edited)

I see a lot of lovely images of wildlife in really amazing light, like at sunrise or sunset but I never seem to be able to capture this magical feel myself. Does anyone have any tips? :D

 

Have only just seen this.....

 

If you could give a couple of examples, that would be great.

 

Manipulating light is easier with a DSLR, and there is also the post processing, which can have a significant impact.

 

Photographers often talk about the golden hours, and in most cases it is simply a case of waiting it out. Most people don't have this level of patience or access to a private vehicle, which is a must.

 

For most destinations, the quality of the light will change throughout the year. (my example is based on Botswana)

 

In the dry season, the dust in the atmosphere will block out more of the suns rays, and it becomes even worse during September when the fires start. It gives you the advantage of shooting for longer with less harsh light, though you will struggle to get those golden hues.

 

As the rain settles the dust, the intensity of the light can be incredible. The light though gets harsh more quickly in the morning and lasts until later in the afternoon. For that magical light, you probably have a 15-30 minute window in my experience, at sunrise and sunset.

 

I personally leave camp at least 45 minutes before sunrise so I with my subject as the sum peeks above the horizon. In the afternoon, I can spend 2-3 hours sitting and waiting for that small window of opportunity......

Edited by russell

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Well Thank you for responding Russell, It's really images like this gorgeous set of yours:

 

http://russelljohnson.photoshelter.com/gallery/Silhouetted-Africa/G0000Ow5w4gqbJpc/

 

That I would love to capture, but I don't have the funds for a private safari!It's those amazing atmospheric shots that I'm misssing.. :(

 

Thanks,

 

Jo

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Wow, Russell - these silhouettes look like oil paintings! Thanks for posting, Jo. These are a real treat to look at.

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Posted (edited)

KK

 

A private safari is not necessary, though it certainly helps. I am in the process of writing a series of ebooks, and have partly covered the topic of back lighting.

 

There are a number of variables that will affect the type of image you can achieve, and I have mentioned some of those above. The technique you use will then depend upon what style of of image you want to achieve.

 

Silhouette or Rim Lighting

 

Back lighting falls into one of these two categories, and both require different approaches.

 

An example of rim lighting would be this image of the wildebeest and egret. The light illuminates the hair/feathers, giving a glow to the subjects outline, whilst retaining detail and some colour in the subject.

 

I0000E6nTi7ZxUws.jpg

 

You then have your straight forward silhouette, where no detail is retained in the subject.

 

I0000MEQ0_X3.m70.jpg

 

My Camera Settings

 

We all have our own working style, and my own is to use evaluative (matrix) metering, which takes an average exposure across the entire scene. I then use exposure compensation to create my desired image. I find this method quicker, turning a dial, as I know what adjustment is required for most scenes.

 

Different techniques include the option to use spot metering or manual mode.

 

Rim Lighting

 

In my experience, rim lighting is easier to achieve in the green season, when the light is more intense. During Botswana's dry season for example, the sun will be but an orange glow in the sky most mornings and afternoons. This is due to the combination of dust and smoke.

 

The angle of the back lighting becomes important in an image like the Wildebeest above. The easiest way of thinking about the direction of light is to draw a circle around your subject, and assume that back lighting and front lighting are split 180 degrees either side. In theory, with body angles and side lighting, this is not always true.

 

Rim lighting is least effective when the sun is directly behind your subject (in relation to your camera). You want the light to be hitting your subject at a angle, as this will accentuate and illuminate the detail in the hair/feathers, increasing the contrast in the image.

 

If you apply a similar technique to a front lit subject, the slight angle will reveal more subtle details and contours.

 

In terms of exposure, you may want to underexpose by 1/3 - 2/3 of a stop. This also depends how much detail you want to retain in your subject. It easy to lower the exposure (make your image slightly darker) in PS, so I would not push it too far and risk losing detail. Through underexposing you will also bring out more saturation in the reds.

 

Below is an example from Botswana last September. It demonstrates the impact of dust etc on the sunlight, and how having the light directly behind your subject do does not illuminate the hairs/outline of the the elephant.

 

I0000oDDGBY00NQ4.jpg

 

Silhouettes

 

I have found that my strongest silhouettes are created in dusty environments or against a sky. For my personal taste, silhouettes are more effective against a clean background, as it allows the shape to stand out to the viewer. It is not uncommon to find images where the subject blends into a dark background when first attempt this, leaving you with only part of a head, or a trunk for example.

 

The flat landscape of Northern Botswana makes it one of the more difficult places to capture a silhouette against the sky. To eliminate the risk of your subject blending into the dark background, the trick is to get low and shot up, or to find a subject standing on a rolling hill with only sky behind it.

 

With the highest peak in Northern Bots being a termite mound, your opportunities are limited in comparison to the to the Masai Mara for example.

 

As cheetah on a termite mound in the Kwando concession.

 

BotswanaRaw-15.jpg

 

In the dry season it is possible to use dust to create a silhouette, as with my images from Hwange.

 

As the herds move across the dry and desolate Kalahari sands, they send a huge amount of dust into the atmosphere. Some of Hwange's waterholes will attract a couple of hundred elephants at a time.

 

When the dust is this thick, it will block out any background distractions, isolating your subject. As with rim lighting, it is most effective having the light at an angle to your subject, as it illuminates more of the dust.

 

I0000W6G6ab70Ipg.jpg

 

In terms of exposure compensation, I normally underexpose these scenes by at least 1 stop (-1 EV).

Edited by russell
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Russell, there's no way I can compete! Fabulous!

 

 

Jan

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Thanks ever so much for the tips! :D

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Wonderful tips, thank you!

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I usually use spot metering for sunset shots.

I measure a mid bright point and if I have time I take several shots of the same object using different metering points. It´s a bit hit and miss, but after a time you get a feeling, which point to measure. At least PS also helps :P

 

gallery_5715_361_36742.jpg

 

 

I think a good place for shooting elephants at dawn may also be staying on a houseboat on the Chobe River, like the Ichtobezi, which is allowed to stay on the river at night (barking on the Namibian side).

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Some stunning photos.

 

Russell, you have the makings of a good teacher … essential when hosting photographic tours … well done.

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The dust tip is a new one to me, Russell - very useful. And I agree it's a really well presented little tutorial all round.

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That I would love to capture, but I don't have the funds for a private safari!It's those amazing atmospheric shots that I'm misssing.. :(Thanks,Jo

 

You could try for the same in the dry season in Amboseli or Tsavo with the old minibus and driver/guide - a private safari that is affordable. I've noticed a lot of wonderful photography has come from people who were staying in less expensive places and traveling by minibus or closed Landcruiser (which from a photography standpoint is not really better or worse than a minibus). You might need to give more instruction to your driver/guide than Russell needs to give to his guide in Botswana, but it would work. Also, really off-season in a lot of the fly-in places in East Africa you will end up with your own vehicle half of the time - don't know if it is the same in Southern Afica?

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@@russell any more news on the ebooks?

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@@africapurohit

 

Sadly things have changed since I first published this. A house move, child on the way and a busy project at work. More than happy to help with tips etc, though struggling to find the time for an ebook....

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Posted (edited)

@gamewarden - will find time to update the image links this weekend too.

Edited by russell

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Thanks @@russell - although I've posted lots of photos on ST, the vast majority were taken using a Canon 30D with a 100-400mm L lens, handheld. The camera was set to "Auto" and I pressed the shutter button. Nice and simple :) .

 

For my trip this August, I will be trying to make more of an effort in understanding photography. I'm booked on some courses with Experience Seminars (the official Canon UK endorsed instructors) and booked a wildlife workshop with David Lloyd in July (at Whipsnade Zoo).

 

My main telephoto combination will be a Canon 7D with the 100-400L lens - a combination you are familiar with, so any tips will be much appreciated.

 

My 100-400mm lens is around 7 years old, so I'll probably drop it off to Canon's UK Centre for a service (they charge £60) - it's only a 15-minute drive from where I live.

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@@africapurohit

While skill is always more important than equipment, I would recommend upgrading your equipment for your forthcoming trip. Rent a full frame camera and a fast zoom. Specifically, the Canon 6D and the 70-200 2.8II lens is a killer combination with the combo you already have. The IQ on the full frame is a definite step up as is the remarkable performance in low light. The 7D while a great body is not very good in challenging conditions. With the slower but still amazingly versatile 100-400 on the 6D and the far superior optically speaking 70-200 on the 7D and vica-versa you would have an excellent kit. With the 6D 70-200 you could shoot in near darkness.

 

Something to consider.

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I don't have the money to go for the top lenses (500mm or 600mm F4 etc), or for the top bodies (1DX, 5D MkIII etc).

 

So if you're in the same boat as me, my tip would be; buy as much 2nd hand stuff as you can.

 

You can't believe the number of people who put the newest model under their Christmas tree, and kick out the previous model for almost nothing, while it has only been used to take 500 pcs of the kids and the dog.

 

My kit right now;

 

50D with 400mm F5.6 for tele

5D MkII with 70-200 F2.8 IS L for most shots and for low light shots

5D MkI with 17-40mm F4 for pics of ourselvs and landscapes.

 

The only item bought new is the 70-200.

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Thanks @@AKR1 and @@Jochen.

 

On this safari, my main area of interest will be landscapes and scenes - so "wider" angle photography. I'm currently studying this area in detail and taking on as much information as possible. My kit will include a 5D Mark III with 16-35 L 2.8 II and a 5D Mark III with 70-200 L 2.8 II. I've only been able to invest in this gear because I haven't been on safari for 5 years, so I've actually saved lots of money :)

 

Long telephoto will my lowest priority, but I do like to take the odd bird photo. But I'm still learning how to get the best out of the 7D + 100-400 L combination.

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>> My kit will include a 5D Mark III with 16-35 L 2.8 II and a 5D Mark III with 70-200 L 2.8 II

 

Can you put me in your will?

 

:D

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How about an update on this topic, now that some of @@russell's photos no longer show up: share with us your magical light photos and tell us your technique for taking them.

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How about an update on this topic, now that some of @@russell's photos no longer show up: share with us your magical light photos and tell us your technique for taking them.

 

~ @@Game Warden

 

Am I alone in not having any idea what “magical light” means?

I've never read this term before. Google isn't available here or I'd look it up.

I apologize for my ignorance.

Tom K.

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@@Game Warden

 

Could you check where the images were hosted as I can't edit the post? I may have some time Thursday night to try and correct them, apologies, but just very busy at the moment!

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There you go @@Tom Kellie (extract from wikipedia)

 

In photography, the golden hour (sometimes known as magic hour, especially incinematography) is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer compared to when the Sun is higher in the sky.

Overview[edit]

200px-PlanckianLocus.png
The color temperature varies by time of day. During sunrise and sunset, color temperature tends to be around 2,000 K, during the "golden hour" it is around 3,500 K and during midday it is around 5,500 K (the color temperature can vary significantly based on altitude, latitude and weather conditions).

When the sun is near the horizon, sunlight travels through a greater depth of atmosphere, reducing the intensity of the direct light, so that more of the illumination comes from indirect light from the sky (Thomas 1973, 9–13), reducing the lighting ratio. More blue light is scattered, so if the sun is present, its light appears more reddish. In addition, the sun's small angle with the horizon produces longer shadows.

The term "hour" is used figuratively; the effect has no clearly defined duration and varies according to season and latitude. The character of the lighting is determined by the sun'saltitude, and the time for the sun to move from the horizon to a specified altitude depends on a location's latitude and the time of year (Bermingham 2003, 214). In Los Angeles, California, at an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset, the sun has an altitude of about 10°–12°.[1] For a location closer to the equator, the same altitude is reached in less than an hour, and for a location farther from the equator, the altitude is reached in more than one hour. For a location sufficiently far from the equator, the sun may not reach an altitude of 10°, and the golden hour lasts for the entire day in certain seasons.

In the middle of the day, the bright overhead sun can create strong highlights and darkshadows. The degree to which overexposure can occur varies because different types of film and digital cameras have different dynamic ranges. This harsh lighting problem is particularly important in portrait photography, where a fill flash is often necessary to balance lighting across the subject's face or body, filling in strong shadows that are usually considered undesirable.

Because the contrast is less during the golden hour, shadows are less dark, and highlights are less likely to be overexposed. Inlandscape photography, the warm color of the low sun is often considered desirable to enhance the colours of the scene.

Film director Terrence Malick has used this technique in films such asDays of Heaven,[2]The New World, and The Tree of Life (in the case of The New World, the entire film was shot in this hour or blue hour). The Robert Redford directed film The Milagro Beanfield War made extensive use of the golden hour in its location filming.

Edited by Earthian
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@@russell Not sure where they were hosted, probably on a defunct website? No problem, if you have time, let's see some of your examples again.

 

Matt

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