When you’re looking for a good source of reflected light, you’re also looking for an environment whose elements have characteristics that cause the light to bounce off the various surfaces and create an appealing image with an alluring contrast and color. Instead of finding ways to control or subdue the ambient light, you enlist nature as the ultimate lighting assistant; awaiting what suggestion she may provide shot to shot. Photographer Adams Gibbs is well acquainted with reflected light and has some insights to share about making the most of it. Let’s see what he has to say.
Time of Day
Depending on where you are, the best time of day to chase the light you want varies. For human subjects, “Golden Hour” is most often cited as ideal. However, the most advantageous time to capture reflective light differs from one setting to the next. Gibbs states that the best time to shoot in the Escalate Canyons is mid-day with a clear blue sky. This allows the light to snake its way to the canyon floor and bounce off of the weathered walls of the crevasses.
Too Much Contrast?
In the image above, the cave provides a wonderful range of dark and light tones. And, capturing both ends of the spectrum required that several images be taken and processed to show that range. However, I should note that photographers are spoiled with cameras such as Nikon’s D850 or Sony’s a7III and A7RIII. Their dynamic range greatly reduces that post-processing burden, if not eliminate it completely in certain instances.
Fresh or undisturbed snowfall acts as a natural white reflector. If you think snow ruins a landscape, consider this. It softens shadows and wraps itself in the color of sunlight above. Additionally, every time of day presents a new variety of colored light with which to play.
Don’t get In your Own Way
Using a filter to cut the light down in your landscape shots is must….in most cases. However, if you head out with the goal of catching reflected light in mind, you’ll find that the filter can dull your images and it may be best to bare that front element or rear element. Likewise, if you looking to shoot a subject up close, be careful to avoid casting your shadow or it or else you’ll need to find a way to bounce it back into the shot to overcome your shadow.
If you’re interested in learning more about light, be sure to check our articles from Lighting Week and our lighting workshops below.