Let's start with everyone’s favourite, the warm, raking light from a low sun, either within the first two Most of the land mass and 90 percent of the population are in the northern hemisphere, which accounts for our one-sided view of how the sun appears to move in the sky — that is, left to right and mainly from the south. Not so, however, in Australasia, southern Africa and the south of South America, where everything, including the seasons, is reversed. Photographing sunrises trains you to anticipate where the disc will appear, but in the southern hemisphere it will rise to the left of the pre-dawn glow, not the right. For anyone planning where the sun will be at a particular time of day, this is criicial. The sun’s path is from right to left, and in the northern part of the sky. The same applies, of course, if you are shooting the stars at night, and the constellations are different.

With the co-operation of weather (by no means guaranteed, the time of day has an extraordinary effect on light and images. Provided that you are not rushing at breakneck speed through one destination after another, this is the lighting variable that can offer you the greatest measure of control.Being patient is a kind of passive control, but by learning to anticipate the angle and colour of light that will best suit a scene, you are able to plan a day’s shooting during which you extract the maximum creative effect for your landscapes and shots of people, buildings and monuments.

The sun’s passage through the sky has a major effect on the quality of light, in particular the angle at which the light falls on a scene, and the resulting shadows it casts. All this assumes that there is sulficient sunlight to cast those all-important shadows. Shadows are important in so much travel photography because they enhance texture, bring contrast of tone and even colour. Under a clear sky, they will be more blue than the sunlit areas, and this can be particularly pleasing early and late in the day. hours of morning daylight or the last two of the afternoon (the period of time is shorter in the tropics where the sun rises and sets almost vertically, longer in higher latitudes where its angle of ascent and descent is more gradual).

Some photographers call it “golden” light. It’s great for landscapes because its raking angle heightens texture and throws longer shadows, and it's good for tallish subjects like people and buildings because it lights one side fully. The deep warmth of the light is also attractive, although this is something you can enhance or moderate easily during processing.

If you have two or three days in one place, then for an important picture you can and should consider the time of day that would show the subject to its best effect. This works only when the weather is predictable, but you should also consider working with a variety of climatic conditions, rather than struggling against them.

To get the most from any situation, you need to be able to realise the potential of any type of lighting, be it a misty morning, stark midday tropical sunlight, the soft glow of dusk, or even the unpromising, shadowless light from a heavy overcast sky.

Of course a flash and various kinds of reflectors can help, but it is always best to work with natural light. All light can be put to good use, and knowing how to make the best of any given condition will greatly improve the flow of your photography on the journey.

Light and Geography

Natural light is affected by a host of conditions and variables: where on the planet you are, what latitude and height above sea level, distance from the sea or from mountains. Geography affects the weather, and weather affects the light. Nothing is settled and the variables are infinite. There are even micro-climates that make the light in a short stretch of coastline and other confined areas different from the surroundings, such as in northern California and Oregon, for example. But the broad geographical picture, drawn by a mixture of the latitude, moisture, and altitude, is covered by the following eight divisions.


Lying in the middle latitudes between the tropics and the poles, and referring to most of Europe and North America, this regions climate is extreme only in the centre of large continents. It has the lighting conditions for which cameras and their sensors are designed. That means a variety of cloud cover, often daily, a range of seasons with summer days up to twice as long as winter days, but with the sun never really low or high.

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Photography is a way of looking at the world, and everybody looks at the world differently. Each of us has a visual and emotional point of view, just as we have an intellectual point of view. These are responses to the world before us, and photography is one of the best ways in which we can express them.

In the beginning, of course, there was light. Wlithout light there is no tone, no hue, no shadows, no difierentiation between skin, hair or eye colour. Light depends on the time of day, geographical location and the weather. It is transient, illusive, magical, and to chase it and capture it is one of the pleasures of the travelling hunter photographer. How light afiects photography is described in the chapter on Light.

Light also reveals shape and form, the relationship between man and nature, how the world falls into place, No matter artificial light or natural light. Our eyes are astonishingly complex. For a start, there are two of them, so we never see the world from a single viewpoint. We can take in a whole scenes at a glance, or we can focus on a single object or person. We have learned from nature to understand what is beautiful nature invariably gets it right, composing itself into hillsides, woodland and seascapes. Onto this man has added his hand, often trying his best to work with nature, to be sympathetic to the surroundings. A good photograph must take account of the juxtaposition of elements in a scene, and put them together in such a way that it is pleasing or interesting to the eye. There are some tricks to this, which are explained in the chapter on Composition.

A camera may not see in exactly the same way that we do, but it gets pretty close. A photographer needs to know its possibilities and its limitations, and how it can serve his or her point of view. This is explored in the chapter on The Camera.

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There are four major ingredients go into making a successful travel photograph: location, timing, composition and lighting. Of these, the last is the real variable and the least predictable. It also makes a powerful difference to an image. You can research and choose the location, improve on your photogapher’s skills at timing and composing, but the lighting is just how you find it. For all travel photography other than night-time and interiors, it is completely weather dependent. Certainly, you can make weather predictions, and choose to visit destinations at the times of year that should deliver the kind of lighting you would prefer, and in the pages that follow we show how to set about this. But ultimately, for most of the time, you will be dealing with a variety of light that is not of your choosing. The only control available is to wait. And for travellers who need to move on to the next destination, this choice is limited.

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Travel photography does not have to end with the setting sun, even less so now that digital photogra- phy helps solve the old difficulties faced by film in taking pictures by artificial light . The potential prob- lems are the much lower light levels and the often wild variation in the colour of light. Digital overcomes these two first, by allowing you to dial up the ISO sensitivity on demand to match the lower light levels, and second, by allowing you to neutralise colour casts using the white bal- ance setting. Even when there are two or more differently coloured light sources, you can selectively alter them in any good image processing software, such as Photoshop or Lightroom. Increased noise, as we have seen, is the downside of increasing the ISO sensitivity, but there are constant improvements in camera sensors and in processing software, so that unless you are tackling extreme darkness, it is no longer a major issue. The difierent colours of artificial light can be surpris- ingly marked, and the reason for this is that our eyes are just so etficient at compensating. Tungsten lighting is actually much more orange than daylight, but after a few minutes in a room lit by ordinary incandescent lamps, we simply see it as normal. Fluorescent striplights and compact fluorescent lamps (CF Ls) that are replacing tungsten for ecological reasons, work better for the eyes than they do for the camera; unfortunately they have broken spectra which make it difficult to re- store a feeling of full colour. Digital processing can help in this, but be warned that the results can never be perfect.

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