How to Avoid Bad Light Ruining Your Photographs

Photography is all about light. The word itself comes from the ancient greek words "photo" which means "light", and "graph" meaning drawing. When you take a photograph you are "drawing with light" - your camera is your paint brush - your tool to turn the light into a beautiful image.

Often (particularly if you live in England like I do) you are entering a bit of a lottery as to the quality of light you are going to get on any given day. Thanks to today's technology you can really stack the odds in your favor - after all that's what the pro's do so why can't you? The technology is there and free to use through your web browser - so why wouldn't you?

The Problem

This shot of Cliffords Tower in my home city of (old) York uses the shadows to provide extra texture and interest on the hill. If the shadows had come up an higher they would obscure the tower and ruin the shot. As it is the sun is lighting up all of the subject - the tower. I would not have been able to taker this shot from the other side of the tower as I wouldn't have been able to get such an interesting

By way of example (we've all done it), you recall a stunning view, and on your day off you think you'll get your camera out and go there to take some spectacular pictures - maybe also take a picnic and just enjoy the scenery with your own eyes too. You drive there, priding yourself on the amazing flash of inspiration you had to check the weather forecast for the area of the view (taking 5 minutes to do this before you leave can save a mountain of misery - it's a great habit to get into). The forecaster has done you proud.

You get your camera out at the location to take your dream shot and find your view is shrouded by shadows. You can get the shot, but it looks flat and un-inviting - lifeless. No real detail is visible on the shot, there are no lovely highlights accenting the beauty of the scene. You've wasted your time. You tuck into your picnic and wonder where you went wrong.

The same problem can happen if you are photographing wildlife. You may have some ideas as to where you want to get the shot from and where the animals are likely to be - but if the scene is back-lit you're not going to get a good shot. You don't want a silhouette if your aim is big game. If your subjects are cast in shadows you're not going to get a good shot because you'll not see the detail of the subject and the eye may be diverted to the background.

The Solution

Wouldn't it be great if there was an app or a website which could zone in on exactly the spot you'd like to shoot in (anywhere in the world), and tell you for any given hour in the day what direction the sun is coming from and at what angle? If your location is in a valley surrounded by mountains you need to know exactly when are the mountains going to block the sun out of your shot and throw it into shadow? The technology exists to tell you all this - as quickly as you can check your weather forecast online. You can reach this technology through your web browser, or via an android or other IOS device. It is a massively powerful tool for a photographer to have - whatever level of photography you are at. It can mean the difference between a wasted journey and the best photo you ever took. You'll always be in the right place at the right time using this tool - enjoy! (And don't be too smug about it... well maybe a little).

The Photographer's Ephemeris

The technology I'm talking about is called the Photograoher's Ephemeris. Before I tell you where to find it I highly recommend you watch the illustrative videos I found for you below, and prepare to be amazed at how helpful this tool can really be to your photography. The videos not only tell you how to use the Ephemeris, but give you an idea of when to use it and what it can do for you. When you've watched these videos check out the Photographer's Ephemeris for yourself by clicking here. Oh, and don't forget to leave a comment to let us know what you thought!

Video 1

Video 2

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