The Impact of Summer Light on Photography by Adrian Weinbrecht
by Dave Mobbs – July 31st, 2017
Light changes everything and this is never truer than during the summer. In the summertime, the intensity and clarity of the light brings everything – for want of a better phrase – ‘to life’. What this means is that most environments will look more appealing and attractive in the summer when compared to how the same place comes across if you captured it during the winter months. This changes the way the photographer sees that environment and the perceived saturation of the various colours and how they work together.
In the UK and northern European countries, for much of the year you don’t get a vibrant quality to the light, it tends to be flatter and a bit dull – which isn’t a bad thing it’s simply another mood created by light – but during the summer you get a deep richness to the color of the light
If you get a bright day in Northern Europe it’s pretty amazing because the sun is often low enough that you can shoot pretty much all day and the way this light forms the landscape can be fabulous. Conversely in Southern Europe, the light can become a bit too harsh and flat in the middle of the day, so the best time to shoot – unless you specifically want that harsher/flat quality – is at the beginning or the end of the day.
The color of the light does vary throughout the day and evening. Late in the day you have what’s called the ‘golden hour’ – the closer you are to the equator the shorter this timeframe is – when the light is so warm and rich that objects appear to be illuminated from within. The light quality and color will change depending on how close to the equator you are, when shooting in Singapore the first time I was shocked at how quickly the sun set, it literally feels like minutes to go from day to night. In places like India, Australia, parts of Southern Spain and North Africa, there’s sometimes a dusty haze that can be quite beautiful as it transfuses the afternoon light and also captures its color or if it rains after a prolonged dry spell, again there’s a different sort of magic to the light quality. Colors become deeper and richer when things are wet, this is why roads are nearly always made wet in static car shots, the road becomes darker creating a stronger background.
This richness that you get through the visible spectrum can only be fully appreciated if you’re working on a decent monitor that’s been accurately color calibrated – using the X-Rite i1Display Pro color calibration solution. This is the only way to ensure that you see a full and accurate representation of what you have captured. In particular when Photographing summer light.
I remember many years ago, when we upgraded one of our monitors, the new one could display a wider spectrum than the old unit – and what a revelation that was. Suddenly, grass looked so much greener and more vibrant. So, it’s very important to have a high quality, hardware calibrated monitor to really take you back to the experience of the location and help you translate the light quality to the end result.
So much of photography and videography is interpretive, but shooting with a color card or a grey card – we use the X-Rite ColorChecker products – is important. Why is this important? …because for consistency, you need to start or at least be able to return to a known neutral point. Even if you don’t use it, it’s always worth taking that one shot with a color chart, to ensure an accurate color reference especially when photographing summer light which changes so quickly.
In summary, once you have a properly calibrated monitor and have completed a shot with a ColorChecker chart, you can then get to the task of getting the best representation of what’s in front of you. What is the best representation? That’s completely up to you, the important thing is to have a set of properly calibrated tools so your vision is not compromised in any way. Ultimately, the most important thing for me is the light. This is where I always start when creating visual content both stills and motion. Remember take away the light and you have no picture, just a blank frame…
Adrian is an X-Rite Coloratti who has a passion for light and working with people, he’s half Australian and half German, this fortunate mix makes him simultaneously uptight and laid-back. He’s been playing with light and image capture for over 20 years but confesses he looks much younger.
Learn more about Adrian and his work here
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