Here’s what you do; go into a field in the early morning, just after the sun clears the horizon. With the sun directly in front of you, get down low to the ground and scout around until you find a nicely shaped spider web.
Beautiful isn’t it? Now, as long as you’re there anyway, take a few shots for your collection. Get down low and fill the frame with the web. Don’t forget to pre-visualise and write everything in your notebook. Once you are done with that – make a mental note of exactly where the spider web is and go around to the other side of it. Now, with the sun at your back, what do you see? Is it as beautiful? Can you see it as well? Can you see it at all?
Hopefully, it will have some dewdrops on it. If not, bring a spray bottle of water with you and give it a gentle spritz. By the way, spritzing “dewdrops” onto flowers and spider webs is an old professional trick. It makes them look so much better that few pros would go into the field without a spray bottle! Want bigger drops? Add some glycerin to the water.
The dew drops or the spritz of water should help you see the filaments of the web.
This is not just an exercise of hard light versus soft light. You are now learning a bit about the angle of light. When you put the finished photos side by side in your notebook, which one do you like best? Why? This exercise should help you to remember to always turn around and check the scene behind you when you are doing a photo session. By that I mean, the scene in front of you may be beautiful, but the scene behind you could be even better. The angle of the light can make a big difference.
Hmmm… I got a little off topic there, talking about light angle rather than talking about the light being hard. Let’s get back to hard light and talk about how to modify it.
Go back and look at each of the ways we shape and control our hard light source, then try to figure out a way to manipulate the sun and your on camera flash using these techniques.
Find ways to use flags to control the light hitting your scene.
Stop by a local camera store and ask them if they will show you a flag, a cookie, a snoot.
Just because these modifiers are generally used on studio lights, doesn’t mean that you can’t find a way to get the same look. Try making a snoot out of paper and tape it to your light.
Next time, we’ll go into soft light, you’re going to like this one!