When the Light is Just Right for Photography

Even Field Finds are Foto Fantastic

Morning light makes the landscape lively and lush, both for the homeowner and the photographer shooting it. In photography, the softness of light brings life to the smallest of detail, shown above in the fine silk webbing glistening like crumpled cellophane. Or below with the grass heads with a satiny sheen. We are in a natural landscape, not one designed, but the principles are the same. All the images are shot on Cliff Island off the coast of Maine.

Hi to all Garden Walk Garden Talk readers. And to those that follow Green Apples, I have the accompanying post Garden Photos in Limited Light over on GWGT. Hop on over to see the difference in equipment use and time of day shooting. My aim was to see if I could get soft macro images in limited light.

Color is softly muted and fine textures faintly meld in the glow of early morning. The sunlight filters through the grasses, sparkling each as if touched by fairy dust or craft glitter.

Porcupine Sedge

The sun is low on the horizon in early morning, often with some humidity in the air that disperses the light rays. The subject is bathed in soft light that is gold in color.

As the morning moves forward, the air gets cleaner and the skies brighten, but the sun’s rays still warm the whites.

Legumes like purple clover shine when the butterflies with translucent wings stop to feed. The prickly plant is a form of native bottlebrush sedge. I labeled it Porcupine Sedge above because that is the closest I got to matching the growing pattern.

Wild Carrot

Some plants become the focus because the background becomes important.

Or the foreground sparkles being kissed by the sun.

Intentional soft focus does a lot for lowly plants.

Playing with depth of field is fun, and so is adding soft focus or graduated filters, like in my beetle image below.

I actually took my camera bag on this trip which I rarely do, even at home. Some things I did not use, like a shutter release or flash because I could not bring my tripod without checking it in on the plane. Also, I had my camera’s ‘raincoat’, but we did not have one rainy day.

My camera bag is small, so it counted as a personal item, but it weighed as much as the carryon bag. It was packed and the many pockets were filled with camera supplies and things like my papers, umbrella, phone, iPad, wallet, and stuff one might have in a purse. I wish the airlines would allow three bags.

Now back to my photos. The colors in the image above just whisper a soft tune but are speckled with a hint of light. This image is about texture.

Details pop and edges are sharp if the lighting is just right. This image is about form.

Even prickly becomes interesting in this late afternoon shot.

And a beetle enhances. He was still from the cooler morning air. This was shot with a graduated filter on the 300mm.

The white brightens against the greens and gold. This image was taken with the 17-35mm. It almost has an ephemeral feel, where the subject floats.

Pinks and golds. Again the 17-35mm.

We end where we started our day, (above with the boats in the morning light), with a pretty sunset at the end of the day in the image below. Hope you enjoyed the images. Even weeds can be pretty.

I do have a post coming up on predicting a good sunset. Everybody with a camera can take good photos of sunsets because they are quite easy with the camera set to Automatic, but predicting when you will see one is a different story. In Maine along the coast I was waiting each night for the perfect sunset. I do know when and how to expect them. Above is the closest cloud formation I came to getting one. In my upcoming post, I will tell you what to expect when the sun goes down. I am no expert, but through observation I think I have the tip.


18 thoughts on “When the Light is Just Right for Photography

  1. Beautiful Donna. If only I had your filters and lenses to play around with, I’d probably never leave my garden. May I know the settings of pl-13.jpg?

    • The rose image from GWGT settings are f/5.6 1/60s ISO 320 55-300mm @ 195mm for comparison. The ISO was set the lowest so I could use for a shutter speed that I could hand hold the camera and not have the image too fuzzy.
      The native coneflower, gazania or gaillardia, not sure, settings are f/9 1/125s ISO 200 55-300mm @ 300mm and I used a filter to blur the foreground.

      One thing I did learn over time was the settings are very dependent on the circumstance in which the subject finds itself. They would certainly vary if the lighting conditions were slightly different. The surrounding air makes a difference too. The morning shots usually have air holding much in water particles. This affects the clarity of the shot and the way the light affects the subject. Kind of like a light fog. 🍏

  2. Oh these are lovely Donna – beautiful light and such great DOF. I can just imagine the weight of that kit bag! I use a special phone app to let me know about sunsets and moon risings when I’m out and about and one on my desktop too. No 6 is my favourite with th purple clover.

    • We had a chart for sun up and sun down in Maine. Carolyn uses it for boating. I was a little obsessive all day telling her that the sky was either right or not right for good sunsets. She thought them all beautiful as did I, but I was after those really amazing ones, and you need a certain sky cloud cover to get them. Earlier in the day we had them, then by sundown it was a bald sky. 🍏

  3. The thistle is spectacular!
    I’ve been trying to shoot grasses, with the new flower-heads, and this year I’ve been entirely unsuccessful in capturing my vision.
    I reckon I need to play with the menu settings n see iffen I cn get ne improvement. Totally appreciated the discussion in the other post…

    • Thanks, Stone. Sometimes I push the envelope a bit by using equipment that will make me think more to get results. I could have gotten better images by using the same camera and lens as in this post, but what is really stretching, is shooting in conditions less than optimal. I think it makes one a better photographer by expanding limitations. That is why I have a raincoat for my camera. I think there are shots that would be really good if I venture out into a storm. Fog too. I have to watch though, my D80 went to the shop twice for me getting it exposed to moisture. And it is expensive to fix after it gets wet. 🍏

      • My cameras are chronically being damaged by a little bit of moisture!
        I need to look into getting one of these “rain-coats”, rain makes excellent shooting conditions.

  4. Some great shots here. Maine faces to the east. Sunrise is probably a better opportunity from the vantage of looking toward the sea. Otherwise sunset over the mountains and lakes can be pretty spectacular. You can increase the drama by dialing up the saturation in Photoshop. It’s how the point and shoot cameras get such nice sunsets. I discovered the sunset setting on my Canon G11 gave spectacular sunsets while the Nikon DSLR was washed out.

    • The post on GWGT was about not using much for equipment and pushing the limit on settings. If I had a point and shoot, I would have used that to make a point too. Many fine images are made with point and shoots. They have settings to get some of the difficult conditions too. See Victor’s comment with his G11.

      Changing the ISO allowed me to get a little closer to the images here, where I did have a selection of lens and filters to use. The main and most important difference was the morning light. On GWGT at the same time of morning as here on GA, but not the same quality of light, the feel of the images are much different. It is almost like a ‘happy’ to a ‘melancholy’ feel.

  5. I think I have a love/hate relationship with light. Sometimes, it’s hard to take a bad photo with the light in Santa Fe, but other times it is too intense. Great photo essay.

    • You do have some of the best scenery in your area of the country and you are right about the lighting. Some of the best anywhere as the light mellows those intense colors as the sun goes down or comes up. I have seen some beautiful photography from NM, same in AZ too.

  6. You make even the most ordinary flower that I see every day look so special. I like the name porcupine for the sedge we were trying to ID. I guess it is unique to be in Maine looking west and still have a sunset over the ocean, but you can do that when you are on an island seven miles out to sea.

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