Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bright white sunlight

One of the techniques I wanted to try with Pam was that strongly backlit, sunny lens-flare look. However, the weather just didn't cooperate with us! It was late in the day and the sun was low in the sky, but it was hidden behind a thick white cloudy mist. You know what I'm talking about-the kind of day that is biting cold, damp, windy...the type of cold weather that cuts right through your clothes and gets into your bones, but weirdly enough it was still bright as anything!

Anyway, I need to stop rambling about the weather. I'm losing your interest fast...let's move on to photo stuff.

So I shot these pics with the 50 mm f/1.4 lens. I chose this lens because I wanted to shoot at really wide apertures--like around f/2-ish to get that dreamy blur effect going on. However, trying to focus on a person using a fast lens in a strongly backlit situation is pretty much setting your auto-focus system up for failure...which is exactly what my AF system did. It just doesn't work well in backlit scenes. I already knew this, since I've tried to shoot in this kind of light before and failed to get even half the shots in focus using AF.

Now I am no stranger to manual was the only kind of focusing available for the old film camera that I first started messing around with in high school. That camera had a really nice big bright focusing screen inside, so that when you looked through the eyepiece you could actually turn the focus ring on the lens and see what was in focus! Amazing concept right? It just worked--so that when something was in-focus, it jumped out at you; and when something was out-of-focus, it looked could just tell. Not so with most DSLRs now, where the difference between "almost-in-focus" and "in-focus" are very subtle and almost impossible to appreciate if not in an ideal lighting situation.

So I went and bought a new focusing screen. It's the little piece of polished glass that your camera's mirror reflects what you point the lens at (the image), and is actually what you're looking at when you stick your eye in the viewfinder of your SLR. The one I got is called the "precision" focusing screen because it allegedly allows you to better appreciate the subtle differences between perfectly in-focus and not so perfectly in-focus (aka out-of-focus). It's a 2-second procedure to swap out the screens, and pretty easy to do.

And it works! I shot all of these using manual focus, and although there were still a bunch of blurry ones, I still got more than 50% of the shots in-focus, and this is as difficult of a focusing situation as there's like trying to read the writing on a 200-Watt light bulb that is turned on! If I'd used the AF, I bet about 10% would be in focus, but even more annoying is that the camera won't let me press the shutter without the AF locking on something...which sometimes never happens when shooting into the sun. So in conclusion, the precision focusing screen is a winner!

In the end, I will have to try another day for the sun drenched look I originally was going for. But I am pretty happy with the look of these too...I like the contrast of the almost all-white background with the bright red and blue colors of the model and the dreamy look of the fast primes...the poses are pretty neat too! By the way, Andy was holding a silver reflector off to camera right if you were wondering.

Thanks to:
Model/MUA: Miss Pam
Assistants: Tom C and Andy B

Hey you! Don't be a stranger! If you're reading, don't be afraid to leave me a comment below once and a while! It makes me smile :)


  1. I've never ventured out of AF for this reason! Thanks for the equipment tip. Was your lens hood off for these?

  2. I think I had the lens hood on for didn't help much since the light was really diffuse and wasn't coming from one direction that could be blocked with the hood. The whole sky was just white!

    I am still hoping for some golden-hour light on a clear night so I can get some directional flare going on...never seem to happen though!


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