Catch The Light

expert advice camera header_catch_the_lightFirstly congratulations to Gerard McGarry for winning November’s ‘Halloween‘ photo challenge. Don’t forget this month’s Catch The Light winner will be announced at the start of December, so make sure you submit your entry before the closing date of 10th December to be in with a chance of winning!

For this month’s Expert Advice article our resident photographer, Phil Surbey, set himself the task of catching the light.

With winter fast approaching, it’s time to get your camera out and capture the last rays of the sun whenever and wherever you can. Because this month’s article has an especially nice theme; it’s all about capturing ‘great light’ – something that a lot of amateur photographers don’t tend to do…

Now, luckily I was thinking ahead to the subject for this month’s feature quite a bit earlier in the year – so my first few pictures to illustrate the theme, numbers 01-07, were all taken in September. I was away on holiday in Saunton, which is in North Devon and, as you can see, the weather – and the natural light – was very good. Lucky old yours truly, eh?

I shot all of these seven images on my LUMIX GX7 over the course of the week. Some of the best times to shoot ‘great light’ are at either end of the day, when the colour of the sun and its height in the sky make for irresistibly dramatic pictures. Whether you use the sun to light your view of something that has caught your imagination, or you shoot the sun itself as your view is entirely up to you. But as usual, the Photo Challenge is wide open and I hope you will send me your best shot.

So the choice of subject, as always, is yours – but whatever you pick, I want you to use natural ‘great light’ to enhance your work. For inspiration, have a look at the very diverse range of subjects I have here. The beach scenes and sunsets all speak for themselves, I think – it’s just a matter of seeing the possibilities when you’re at a certain location and then using your photographer’s eye to isolate areas as you look at them. And then, of course, capturing the moment for posterity with a decent camera!

I really like the compressed perspective on shot number 03. It reminds me of an LS Lowry painting – matchstick men! I am not sure if he was much of a beach man, but perhaps you will choose to shoot something more typically urban? Wherever you find ‘great light’, go for it. Anyway, I shot the beach using the LUMIX G Vario 45-200mm lens at 200mm, and with an ISO setting 200-400.

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Figure 1 shot 3

Possibly my personal favourite of these is actually number 01, showing the hardy surfers at sunset. I looked at some wide shots, but they were frankly pretty boring! So, I fitted the 45-200mm lens and set it to 200mm, and I really like the result. It’s a photograph with a good look, all those horizontal lines. I have enhanced the colour and contrast in post-processing. Remember, this is always an option and in no way will be regarded as cheating with your competition entries!

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Figure 2 shot 1

Shot 05 got me out of bed to catch the daybreak – but it was well worth it, of course! Long-time readers of these features will know I am firm believer that you should always be prepared to put yourself out a bit for your art – for the love of our hobby of photography. Who could have resisted the chance to grab this shot? With the dawn mist rolling across the Braunton Burrows and the shafts of sunlight streaking across the sand… simply breathtaking.

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Figure 3 shot5

Moving on from the Devon shots, number 08 is a horse of a very different colour. This macro shot of water droplets on a blade of grass was taken in my back garden. I was literally just looking out of my kitchen window early one morning, as the sun was rising, and suddenly the opportunity seized me! So, I grabbed the GX7, fitted my 45mm Macro lens and quickly took a series of extreme close-up shots of the dew, of which this is my favourite. The settings were ISO 200, 1/250th of a second at f7.1.

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Figure 4 shot8

Also making the most of some lovely natural light – and of another moment of inspiration – is shot number 09. This large fruit basket sits on my kitchen worktop and I decided to shoot it, nice and straightforward, with the sunlight coming through the window. A simple shot, but so effective with the angle of the rays across the various fruits’ different textured surfaces. I’ve said it before: Mother Nature is the greatest artist of all!

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Figure 5 shot9

For shot 10 I am off on holiday again – well, a man can’t be working all the time, now can he? This was taken from my hotel balcony, as the early morning sun streaked down the road, bathing the scene in a golden glow. It was always going to be an interesting composition, as you can see, with all the different shapes and details. But it’s the ‘great light’ that really appeals to me and, I think, makes the shot so special. The settings were ISO 200 and 1/800th of a second at f8.0.


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Figure 6 shot10

So there you have it. It’s all about the light! Photography may have changed immeasurably during my lifetime, with all manner of refinements leading us to the current cutting-edge of digital technology – but it’ll always be about the light. So remember that, please, and have a wonderful time out there capturing some special images – and then send me your favourite for the chance to win a great prize! It goes without saying, it needs to be well composed and conceived, and I promise to look through every photo carefully to pick the best. In fact, I can’t wait!

Happy shooting!


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