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Blinded by the light

Image of the May 2019 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
May 2019 Issue

Cloudless days in the mountains often end in a glary sunset. Rather than fighting the intense light, try to embrace conditions by shooting a stylish silhouette image.

Into the sun
Position the subject between you and the sun to achieve a clear outline with lots of contrast. This is one of the few situations where a lack of detail in your  subject is desirable.

Go commando
A naked lens will take much better images, so remove any UV or polarising filters prior to taking your image. Remember that additional glass between your lens and the sun introduces reflections and reduces contrast.

Watch your highlights
Setting the correct exposure will require a few test shots. Try different settings until distant landscape details become faintly visible in the highlights. It is fine if the sun is a big, undefined blob. After all, it is not a pinprick of light when you look right at it on a clear day.

Push your shadows
Your shadows will inevitably end up underexposed – that’s fine, dark shadows can easily be brightened in post-production. Shooting an exposure bracket off a tripod is another option to tackle dark areas.

Pose your tramping partner
Don’t be shy to give instructions to your subject. Slightly crooked or active poses usually work best. Engage your subject in simple activities like throwing a rock, or by asking them to repeatedly shift weight from one foot to the other.

The breakdown
After setting my exposure so the mountain range in the background was faintly visible, I instructed my tramping partner to pose on a rock so her legs would not disappear in deep grass. Telling her to shield her eyes from the sun seemed like a natural activity in the situation. It also created a gap between her arms and her head that helped to outline the shape of her arm.The resulting image was quite dark in the foreground, which was easily fixed on the computer.

– Dennis is a commercial photographer and teaches photography here.