Among the most challenging conditions faced by landscape photographers is bright midday light. In this situation you can either go home and try again under better conditions or understand how to make the most of harsh light.
Instructor Andrew Banner isn’t one to give up easily when he’s out in the field and he insists that the experienced photographers know how to make the most of whatever they confront, so that they can adapt and capture beautiful images throughout the day. Harsh, direct light? Boring cloudless skies? Super-bright highlights? No problem.
Banner is a full-time British landscape photographer who regularly posts behind-the-scenes tutorials like this one—demonstrating the secrets to his success. This episode explains how to overcome challenging light by concentrating on shapes, colors, textures, and more. You’ll follow him during an early morning beach walk on the North Norfolk coast, while illustrating how to make bright light your friend.
His unique approach can be described as “finding compelling images within the landscape, that are not necessarily part of the landscape” in the conventional sense. While the cloudless sky in his scene is devoid of interesting details, it is a pretty blue. His introduces the first tip this: “When you have the kind of color contrast that works very well with blue, you can’t ignore it.” He then demonstrates how to use this confluence of conditions as a compelling graphic device.
Banner composed a shot with wooden posts on the shore that weren’t particularly interesting until these elements (and their shadows) were brought to life as the sun rose lit them up. Then he had something compelling to work with. As Banner notes, the newfound impact is the result of “blue sky, blue sea, yellowish brown posts, yellow sand, and reflections in the foreground.”
For this particular opportunity of color and contrast Banner employed a 10-stop ND filter that enabled him to select a longer exposure than would ordinarily be possible under these conditions and thereby “flatten out the water.”
Banner has several other helpful tips for capturing the “simplistic” images that he prefers, including arriving early when photographing from the beach—before bypassers and their footprints intrude into the frame. We suggest taking a look and his instructional YouTube channel where you’ll find more lessons for shooting outdoors.
And be sure to check out a tutorial we posted recently from another accomplished outdoor photographer, explaining the key camera settings to use for capturing the best possible sunset photographs.