Light! Camera! Composition!

Posted on November 13, 2010 by Tim 1 Comment

So here are some photos from a recent trip to Kauai and why I think they failed:

I underexposed this shot to retain the saturated colors of the blue ocean and green forest. But midday overhead sun flattens this image – “flat light!” A lack of interest in the sky and drama in the lighting render this pretty scene in life rather bland when published. My memory saves this image for me but makes it near useless for anyone else.

Early morning light and partly cloudy skies allows the colors to pop and creates shadows which suggest depth. There is contrast between the blue, green, and white, as well as light and dark. But where is the subject? This lacks an interesting composition and becomes a just pretty snapshot. Ok, considering I was shooting off a moving doorless helicopter but that trivia won’t sell this image.

I saw this valley and had this vision of late afternoon/sunset light dropping in from the right. When I returned in the evening the puffy clouds a few hundred meters to the north over the ocean were replaced by overcast in the valley. The overcast sky coupled with underexposure sure made the green pop. I actually had to decrease saturation in post. But I had hoped for some red/orange in the sky for my color contrast. Unfortunately, my lack of foresight showed that the sun (camera right) had dropped below another mountain camera right so the valley couldn’t get any sunset colors. Not to mention too many clouds camera right (to the west) would prevent any colorful clouds. Got to remember the clouds over you as well as over the horizon. With planning I could determine if there was a time of the year where the sun would be setting further to the north thus clearing the mountain and filling the valley with setting light. This is where knowledge the earth’s tilt and the sun’s ‘movement’ would tell me if and when I could try for what I envisioned.

The stunning Waimea canyon was giving me fits our last day on the island. The canyon, called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, runs from near the middle of the island, south to the ocean. At the mouth, along the coast, the sky was hazy and harsh. But further north in the canyon it was filled with dark and broken clouds. Potential for dramatic light. However, the valley air was loaded with particulate haze. So my range of light is fairly narrow (HDR won’t fix this problem) but I can’t get any contrast. Nothing looks sharp and the colors fall flat. I had hoped rain would clear the air. That would clean up the sharpness and the really pop the colors. But it didn’t happen. No post work can save these images. That dusty air even made the scene in life look ugly.

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One comment

  • Marianne says:

    I went to Kauai back in 1998. When we visited Waimea Canyon initially it was covered with clouds and we couldn’t see a thing. An hour later the fog had blown out and it was beautiful. If we hadn’t waited around we would have missed it. We were just lucky we only had to wait an hour or so. The contrast with the cloudy sky and the sun shining on the red dirt reminds me of how it looked when we were there. I like the second picture with the sun breaking though the clouds onto the bright green mountains. I loved Kauai. I could live there. You don’t have to wear shoes! Even at the grocery store. I went everywhere barefoot. I hope you guys had a fabulous time!

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