On the longest of days (solstice is actually the day before), and the first of the summer, it's a good occasion to practice taking photographs during the golden hour. The first and last hours of sunlight can be magic, so they say, and here we'll be spending that last hour in an appropriate spot, Sunset Beach.
The light reflecting from the 'scapes feels soft (because of diffusion) and warm (because of the amber hues), the bellies of clouds can turn from grey to orange to vermillion, the air looks thick, objects glow and details pop. So we'll spend part of the evening and take cityscape and landscape photos, sunset photos and portraits too.
Perhaps you like sleeping in or typically not photograph after supper or are a magic hour enthusiast. Do you enjoy calm periods of photographing? It could definitely be fun and influence our process. So let's go capture some dramatic scenes.
You can bring your tripods and ND filters (if you have them; for sunsets and slower times). And for any film buffs out-there, try to have some high ISO rated film, 800 and above.
Here are a couple of pages about the subject to get you started, but I encourage you to seek out information.
We'll have a Meetup for blue hour (twilight time) photography soon.
We'll explore Sunset Beach Park; we'll cut loose. We'll meet near the front of the concession stand (see map) at the edge of the beach at 20:00 (8:00 pm), make introductions, ask questions about the topic and then set ourselves loose to have fun and take photos. And to have time to set up.
The golden hour, as per calculators, will begin at about 20:30 and end at about 21:30 (sunset).
We will end the Meetup at 21:30 (9:30 pm), or abouts, back at the concession stand. Even after the sun completes its drop behind the horizon, the colors can be awesome.
From there we will make our way to the Morrissey Pub (1227 Granville Street @ Davie) for 22:00 (10:00 pm) where we can catch up for drinks and conversations and celebrate the Midsummer a little.
The function of the group is to learn and practice the techniques of photography. This involves learning photography not only from your guides but also by sharing knowledge with your group-mates. The intention is also to organize and get to know new people. The attendant size of the meets will be small so participants can have the opportunity to get to know all their group-mates and spend time with a guide. If you select to attend a meet and then cannot make it, please be courteous to others in the group and change your RSVP status as soon as possible to allow others who might be on the waiting list the chance to participate.
Please feel comfortable in posting your photographs and advising others; critical appraisal is helpful. What will also be appreciated are ratings and, especially, comments to individual meets and the group dynamic as a whole. This is important because it will ultimately add value to our meetings and improve our experience.
Update #1: Exercises
We want to work with this beautiful light; one that softens edges, lowers contrast, elongates shadows, warms surfaces, emphasizes texture, captures particles in the air and creates gentle tonal transitions. Here, we want to practice capturing the effect on the surroundings.
Here are a few captures to practice and post.
1- A photograph of a cityscape where the light affects the surfaces and edges of built structures.
2- A photograph of the park or beach where the light affects natural textures.
3- A photograph of a landscape or a long shot where the light affects the tonality of objects and the atmosphere.
4- A portrait photograph where the light affects skin tone. Ask a stranger to pose for you.
5- A photograph of the sunset where the light will affect the level of exposure.
In every case, use the color, quality and direction of the light, and the play of shadows, to your advantage.
Update #2: Tips for beginners
Take the time to think out your composition and try to make the photograph. We want to help you move from a heedless, automatic mode to an engaged, manual mode or as declared above, free-capture photography. Any camera will do; but know how to best use its capabilities. However, a camera that allows for manual control will offer more range with which to compose. In the case of photography during the evening golden hour, light levels change quickly and diminish. To get the desired exposure we can compensate by opening up the aperture, slowing down the shutter-speed or increasing the ISO.
If you open up the aperture, you decrease depth-of-field. This might be good for mid-shots and portraits but might not be good for landscapes or long-shots. You have to be mindful of the shutter-speed; it might be too fast and make the exposure too dark for your liking.
If you slow down the shutter-speed, you increase the chance of capturing blur by motion or camera shake. This might be good depending on the subject matter. You have to be mindful of small apertures, which might create depth-of-field too great for your subject matter.
To compensate for slow shutter-speeds, you can increase the sensitivity, ISO. High ISO typically causes "noise" with sensors (not as nice) or shows grain in film. Again, this might be fine depending on the subject.
The use of a tripod to steady the camera is good for such an occasion when an exposure typically needs slower shutter-speeds, whether you want to keep the ISO relatively low or the aperture relatively small. If you do not have one on hand you can steady the camera on a bench or rock, the ground, or even by your stance. Work and compose with what you have.
Another situation when photographing in this light condition, especially towards the sun, can be the great difference in brightness between the foreground and the illuminated sky. You have to be attentive to the reading the camera light meter supplies and compensate for the large variation in the levels of exposure. To get the desired exposure we can choose some intermediate setting between high and low readings, use exposure compensation, bracketing an exposure or using filters.
You camera light meter will always normalize the brightness of an object. If you take a reading of a bright blue sky, the exposure will come out as a darker, middle blue. If you take a reading of a green lawn in shadow, the exposure will come out as lighter, medium green. To correct for this behavior you either expose for the area that is most important to the composition or select an intermediate exposure setting to balance the composition to your liking.
A Graduated Neutral Density filter, where one half is tinted, will lower the light level of the illuminated sky to a certain degree relative to the foreground. This will offer a choice of exposures with less contrast, perhaps with detail in the shadows; considered balanced.
Bracketing is taking additional exposures, over and under the chosen settings. You can then superimpose them in post processing. Your digital camera might even be able to do this automatically as long as it does not change a crucial setting. We can do this with film too, but superimposing is rarely done because the inherent very high dynamic range allows for flexibility. Exposure compensation is similar. If you feel that the general camera meter reading is off, giving an image that is too bright for instance, you can compensate for this by changing the exposure compensation setting to underexpose, to a level of -1 or -2. You might wish to bracket if you are new to a certain lighting condition, or do not agree with your imprecise meter, or you do not have the time, or even with your best guess you want to be safe and not miss an opportunity.
If we do not have filters or [+/-], we have to take a hands-on approach. If the photograph is facing the sun and you find a pleasant silhouette with striking colors above, take a meter reading off the disk of the sun (not right at it) to get an exposure of the illuminated sky that is bright and rich, and not blown out. If you think more detail in the shadows is necessary for your composition, take another reading of the foreground and then chose a setting in between to brighten it somewhat. You can even position the disk of the sun behind an object (even right outside the image frame) to reduce the overall brightness and possibly bring out detail in the subject in shadow. This can also be done for dramatic effect.
In either case, we have to meter the different areas of light correctly and change our settings according to our composition. If you only have an Automatic setting, you can possibly fool the camera into accepting the light level of one part of the scene and then re-composing the frame.
Generally, it is important to verify the white balance setting so as not to create a particular color cast on the image. In the case of golden hour photography make sure it does not counteract an otherwise warm looking scene. Take a test shot to make sure the cast is accurate or pleasant; then change it or turn white balance off. Although some films can be considered cooler or warmer in hue, white balance is not as problematic with daylight color film because it (color temperature balance) is built in, and if needed filters can be used to change the cast.
Verify the sharpness of the image by using your depth-of-field preview. If you do not have one then the rule of thumb for aperture is: large f-numbers (like 16 or 22) will give you sharpness throughout; small f-numbers (like 1.4 or 2) will only render the focused object sharp and make things around it blurry. Depending on the direction of the light, the bokeh can be spectacular.