The light in landscapes
The three most important attributes of landscape light when photographing nature are light quality, light direction and light temperature. Each plays an important role in setting up the proper shot for nature photography.
In nature photography, light quality can be further divided into diffused light and specular light. Diffused light is the sun’s light coming through the clouds on an overcast day. Conversely, specular light comes from a bright point of light, like the sun shining brightly on a clear day.
Diffused light is a favorite of many nature photographers because it makes subjects easy to properly expose. Some subjects best photographed under diffused light include:
- forest scenes
- up-close nature scenes
- wildlife and people portraits
Specular light casts harsh shadows, creating a greater challenge for the nature photographer. However, secular light can produce a more dramatic effect if the proper camera mechanisms are set.
Light direction, as the term suggests, is the direction of the light within a shot. Different directions can produce different results when photographing nature.
- Front light (the sun is behind you) is best used when the scene features a strong color or tone.
- Side light emphasizes texture and works well for strongly textured landscapes.
- Back light emphasizes shape and form, making it ideal for creating a silhouette.