Thursday, August 23, 2018

Photographing in bad light

Curious cubs investigating the clicking camera.

As a photographer one gets to learn how to read and work with certain types of light. Backlight, sidelight, front light; all of which can be of different intensity and colors. This all is the deciding factor when photographing anything. As photographers we chase the light and eventually become total photo snobs, refusing to pick up our cameras when the light is not happening. When meeting another photographer on a safari during 2017 and discussing this I was rudely accused of being a fair-weather photographer. In short, according to her, being such a light snob I limited getting great images in light where I normally put the cameras away.

Behind the scenes of how it was done.
And so it happened that on that same safari we woke up to a dull overcast day with “no light”. Time to put the accusation to the test. I had to think from well outside the comfort of my good light box. Not long into the drive we found a pride of about 12 lions lazing about. There were a few cubs present who showed more interest than their lazy parents. I decided to stick a wide-angle camera down on the ground and have the intervalometer clicking away at a photo per second. Soon the clicking got the cubs’ attention and they came to investigate. At the risk of having a camera demolished, I did manage one of the best images of the year, one that now takes pride of place on our blogs banner above.

Another bad light image!

I am now a bad light convert and on a recent game drive in the Greater Kruger I put it to the test again. To be honest the opportunities are far less that in great light despite the fact that the cats are much more active in such conditions. But when it works it works beautifully. This young male leopard was hiding from two lionesses in the area and sporadically peeked around the Leadwoods’ branch to see what they were up to. The camera wanted to compensate for the completely overcast white sky, which resulted in a very dark image.

Incredible but this is what the picture would have looked like if one let the camera do the thinking. 
By overexposing by two F stops I managed to get the leopard looking well exposed. The white sky though was almost blown out completely yet this gave the image an almost studio-like effect.  And because there were no harsh shadows, the light in the eyes of the cat reflected the most amazing hues. So what could have been a very disappointing drive photographically developed into an opportunity resulting in yet another one of my favorite images of the year so far. In bad light!!

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