Tag Archives: sunlight

Darkness Creeps In

Darkness Creeps In

Brian Auer | 06/29/2008 | Huntington Beach, CA | 135mm * f/2.8 * 1/?s * ISO50
[Purchase Prints] [See it at Flickr]

This photo was taken while I was hanging out with a few friends one afternoon at Huntington Beach. It was kind of a last minute “whatcha doin this weekend” sort of thing. Bryan Villarin (F/B/T), Arnold (F/T), Jason Stone (F/B/T), John Watson (F/B/T), my son Rex (F), and I (F/B/T) were all there to grab some shots of the beach and pier while we waited for the sunset to see if anything exciting would happen (you can see them all in this Polaroid I took).

The Guys at Huntington Beach

Just as we were finishing up dinner, the sunset was approaching so we zoomed back over to the beach to grab some shots. I only had film cameras with me that day (4 of them), and I had been shooting black and white with my SLR and TLR. I still had about 10 shots on the roll in the SLR, so I finished that one off and quickly loaded a roll of Velvia 50 with the intent of cross processing. I got about half way through the roll before the sun was gone. If I had decided to swap out the roll in my TLR, I probably would have missed it altogether.

I took the Velvia with me solely for the purpose of shooting the sunset and cross processing it. I assumed that the Velvia 50 would turn out the same as the Velvia 100 when cross processed, so I was expecting to get some serious red/magenta shifts on the already red/orange sunset. Instead, I got a blue/green shift similar to what I’ve seen with Ektachrome. I’m not at all disappointed with the results… it’s just not what I had expected.

And on top of all that, I got this really neat photo that ended up with a heavy vignette/underexposure on the right side of the frame. Very cool results all around. This is one of the reasons I’m attracted to film — sometimes the results are completely unpredictable, but better than you had expected.


  1. Take exposed film out of camera
  2. Give film to camera store and say “Cross process, please. No prints and no cuts.”
  3. Go outside and take photos for 15 minutes
  4. Go back to the store and pick up film
  5. Take film home and scan
  6. Post photo on the Internet

Yup, seriously… no digital post processing other than maybe some dust removal. Sometimes I also adjust the white balance on my cross processed stuff to remove most of the color cast, but I left this one alone.

Challenge Yourself: Shoot in Harsh Sunlight

Ice Cold

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the old saying about the “magic hour” and “waiting for the light to be right”. Pah… if you want to get out and shoot, then get out and shoot. Don’t wait for the evening light or an overcast day. Harsh direct sunlight may be a little more difficult to deal with, but it has a few merits too. I actually prefer to shoot in the afternoon sun because it produces such a drastically different result than “soft light” situations.

One big reason photographers (particularly those using digital cameras) like to avoid direct sunlight is because of the limited dynamic range of the sensor. If the light is too harsh, you’ll end up clipping your shadows or highlights (or both). We’ve been trained to believe that clipping is a terrible thing and it will ruin your photo. Not true… you just have to be more careful about controlling the clipping and force the camera to produce what you want it to.

Other reasons people whine about direct sunlight shooting include: shadows, too much light for the sensor, lens flare, it’s hot, it hurts their eyes, it’s their nap time, blah, blah, blah, etc., etc.

The Lifeguard

So, seriously, don’t be bummed out next time you find yourself equipped with a camera and faced with some bright light. Here are a few pointers for shooting in harsh sunlight situations:

  • If you’re on digital, expose for the highlights and let the shadows fall out.
  • Seek out subjects that produce interesting shadows, or even make the shadows the subject.
  • Check your histogram often and make sure the camera is giving you what you want.
  • Use your lens hood to avoid excess flares and glares.
  • Don’t shoot directly at the sun with a digital camera; it’ll look stupid, plus your sensor doesn’t like it.
  • Process the photos as black & white; high contrast tends to look better without color.
  • Your f/1.4 lens is useless, so don’t worry about bringing fast glass.
  • Use shutter priority and max it out; misused aperture priority can cause you to exceed the limits of your shutter and blow out all your photos.
  • Shoot b/w film; it has a higher dynamic range and you can get some really low ISO films (like ISO 50, 25, 12, etc. – can your digital camera do that? I’ve always wondered why ISO 100 was the lower limit…).
  • Break the rules; including the ones you see on this page.

The Place to Be Cruisers

Field of Yellow

Field of Yellow

Brian Auer | 04/13/2008 | La Jolla, CA | 15mm * f/8.0 * 1/160s * ISO100
[Print Pricing] [Contact for Signed Prints] [See it at Flickr]

This one was taken along the shores of La Jolla, California. I was out with my wife this weekend and we decided to take a short trip down the Pacific Coast Highway from Carlsbad to La Jolla. The shores of La Jolla are some of the most scenic in the area — lots of small cliffs and sandstone formations, caves, vegetation, tide pools, etc. I shot this scene with my Sigma 10-20mm lens at the widest focal length of 10mm. I’ve been ignoring that lens for a while, so I put it on the camera and left it there all day… well, I had my film camera with me too so I wasn’t completely limited on focal length.

Field of Yellow Post-Processing

  1. Unprocessed RAW
    Here’s what the unprocessed RAW image looked like — pretty dull and a little washed out.
  2. Processed RAW
    I cooled the white balance slightly, increased the contrast, increased the vibrance and saturation, and added a few other minor tweaks to the exposure settings.
  3. LAB Saturation
    I used my LAB Saturation Photoshop Action to bring the colors out a little better. This helped to remove some of the muddy haze in the sky.
  4. Dodge
    Selective dodging around the green of the waves and on the left side of the flowers at the bottom of the frame.
  5. Burn
    Selective burning in the sky and on the right side of the flowers to add more balance.