Photography Challenge: A Season in Transition
March 2, 2016
It's already starting to look like spring in Victoria, British Columbia. There are blossoms on the trees, the daffodils are up, and the weather is thoroughly confused. Spring starts early on Vancouver Island, but the transition from winter is fairly tumultuous with rain, sun, and lots of wind. Sometimes hail. Sometimes all at the same time. It's enough to make me want to curl up on the couch with a novel and the cats until April. But, in the spirit of improving my craft by practicing travel photography in my own town, out into the pseudo-storm I went this last weekend. After all, when you're really traveling, you only have a limited amount of time in any particular place so you need to work with what you have - be it conditions, gear, etc. If you have time to return to a site and shoot again in better conditions, of course you should, but since that isn't always possible it's good to practice in advance.
The gardens and grounds at Government House were my location of the day. On arrival, there was an interesting mix of sun and clouds just hitting the daffodils so I hurried to compose my shot, clicked, and...saw the "no card" error message. Damnit! I'd forgotten to replace the memory card the night before when I uploaded my previous shoot to my computer. Note to self: one card out, one card in. Replace it immediately, and always carry a spare. It happens to all of us at some point. Fortunately for me, it happened at home, and for a personal project only.
On the bright side, I also had my phone with me, and since the best camera is the one you have with you, out it came. I have the LG G4 which is able to shoot RAW images - all the better for post processing. This was particularly welcome because most of the light was quite harsh with a lot of contrast. I actually had to de-saturate the greens and yellows in particular in a number of images. So much for great light when the weather gets weird! The downside is that I wasn't able to use a tripod, which would have been ideal given the wind.
For those wondering why I didn't plan this shoot during the golden hour instead to reduce contrast...two reasons. One, earlier that day there was a heavy cloud cover. Even lighting, sure, but not exactly exciting! And two, when traveling, you are likely to be out and about at all times of the day, and not putting off photography until only the ideal times for shooting. Make an extra effort to get great shots when the light is best, but remember you aren't limited to those times, and you'll miss capturing a lot of travel memories if you wait to shoot exclusively at golden hour.
When the light is harsh, all is not lost! First, try to find a place with even shade especially if you plan to shoot a portrait. This isn't always possible, but it's something to look for, especially if you don't have a reflector. Second, look for interesting views facing away from the sun for the best chance of evening out the light in your scene. Third, practice daytime silhouettes by shooting towards the light (being careful not to view the sun through your viewfinder of course...eye safety, people!). Finally, either shoot in, or for, black and white imagery. I tend to reserve this for architecture, although you can certainly apply it to any kind of scene.
Besides improving the technical aspects of photography in bad weather, this day was also practice in fortitude. It's very tempting to want to move on to your next shot quickly when that cold wind is blowing, but it's also important not to rush. When you rush, you're more likely to make mistakes and that can lead to disappointing images at the end of the day. Pretend that you're at your dream destination and out exploring the sights. Imagine the different types of photos you'd want to capture - landscapes, portraits, details, etc. Basically, use a shot list at home too. Maybe it's even more important on these kinds of days - don't move on until you've covered everything on your list.
How do you get the most out of your photos when the light is harsh?