Some days I just need to take photos. With my busy schedule of family and work, I find myself missing the “sweet light” of sunrise and sunset far too often. Luckily, this makes me more creative with less than perfect light. This past summer I had a few hours to myself, so I took on the challenge of capturing midday light at a local Flagstaff nursery.
With my Nikon D600, multiple lenses, tripod and miscellaneous gear, I checked in at the front counter and was given permission to photograph to my hearts desire at Viola’s Nursery in Flagstaff. I spent the first hour looking for unique flowers and started with a fisheye lens, then used a 300 mm lens and finally settled in with my 60mm macro lens when I spotted the beautiful English daisies. I was attracted to these newly blossomed flowers for their brilliant color and perfect shape. Instinctively, I clicked my shutter.
After several shots, I realized the ideal position for my camera was directly above the flowers. It was 11am and the sun beat down on the flowers with top light creating dark shadows under the flowers. This light looked very flat and the harsh shadows did not bring out the best of these daisies. Another problem with top light is that you have to be careful that you or your camera don’t cast shadows on the subject. Using a tight crop, I filled the frame with the flowers, put the camera on a tripod and used an aperture of f/5.6 to keep the taller flowers in focus and create a nice blur in the background, then I snapped the first shot (Photo 1). The harsh light was not complementing my subject, so I grabbed a diffuser from my camera bag and placed it above the camera (Photo 2). Diffusers filter the natural light just like being in shade. Now, the light softened, and I could see detail through the shadows underneath the flowers. Still feeling I could improve the shot, I pulled out my gold reflector and directed soft, warm light into the shadows (Photo 3). Now, I captured a “keeper.” When I returned home to view my photos, I realized I had meet my challenge and tamed the harsh midday light. With a little practice and a good subject, your camera can create great shots any time of day too.