Shooting the summer scene
April and May are the summer months in the Philippines. It is hot and humid, and people flock to their favorite weekend getaway – the beach. With 7,100 islands and a combined coastline that stretches 23,000 kilometers, the beach is a perennial sight. And we’ve got some of the best beaches in the world. You’ve probably heard, seen or been to some of these – Boracay, Panglao, El Nido, Bohol, Cebu, Subic Bay and Siargao. Now these are just the more popular ones. Numerous other beaches, some still undeveloped in their natural pristine beauty, litter the country’s coast. The beach scene is one of my favorite subjects. I’ve shared some tips on shooting the beach in a previous post. This time let’s explore with more tips on capturing the bright summer scene.
When we talk about outdoor summer scenes, we mean bright intense light, which results in harsh shadows, glare, lens flare and high contrast, especially during midday hours. Here are what I’ve searched and gathered:
1. Use Lens Filters. In the same way that we wear sunglasses to protect our eyes from harmful UV rays, dust and dirt, filters do they same for the lens. There are many kinds of filters and with different purposes – protection from the elements, reduction in the amount of light and reflection, and enhancement of colors. For a better understanding about filters, what they do and how they function I refer you to this article Lens Filter Explained.
2. Underexpose. If you don’t have neutral density filters and the outside scene is quite bright, you may have to underexpose the image by 2 stops in order to properly get the highlights and shadows. This is called exposure compensation, a standard manual feature in DSLRs represented by the plus and minus signs (+/-). Some high-end point and shoots also carry this feature, providing for more flexible manual exposure controls. These Exposure Tips will guide you on where, how and when to use exposure compensation.
3. Use A Lens Hood. This lens attachment is meant to reduce flare which is caused when light bounces into the lens from the side. Know why it is important to use this with this article What Does A Lens Hood Do?
4. The Sunny 16 Rule. It states that: “On a sunny day, you should set your aperture to f16 and your shutter speed to the reciprocal of your ISO value…This means that, for an ISO value of 100, your shutter speed should be near 1/100 seconds (most of the time cameras will offer a value of 1/125 seconds). An ISO value of 200 calls for a shutter speed around 1/200 seconds.” Head over to the article to see the suggested f-stop settings for various lighting conditions.
5. Use Fill Flash. Your subject may be in a deep shade or shadow caused by the harsh light, or the sun is in the back of the subject making it a “backlighted” image. In any case, the camera will not recognize or retain the subject’s image, it will just be a dark mass or silhouette. Time to engage the flash to fill in the dark areas. Ken Rockwell explains it all in his article Fill Flash.
6. Adjust In Post-Processing. Most image editing programs have controls to adjust brightness and contrast. The one I use, the free but feature-filled software PhotoScape, even has special options for adjusting luminance, brightening foregrounds and backgrounds, and lighting particular shadow areas in a photo.
This is not a complete listing. There are many other tips like moving into a shade, using natural reflectors in the environment, tweaking camera settings like ISO and white balance and many others. The point is to be knowledgeable and prepared when we go outdoors in bright, summer, sunny days. The picture above was taken at Tambuli Beach Resort in Mactan Island (accessible by two modern bridges from across Cebu City) while the image below was taken at Subic Bay.