Last Saturday, one of my clients on the Glamorgan Coast workshop asked me the question (or, more accurately made the statement seeking clarification) – “should I always photograph with the sun behind me?”
This took me straight back to the good old days when my Dad always told me to photograph with the sun at my back – not even with the sun to my left or to my right. He later admitted that this was what he had been taught and this was also reinforced by the instructions that accompanied rolls of Kodak film. Do you remember those little diagrams?
Well anonymous client. The answer from me at any rate is a definite NO! Firstly, the very best shots when using a polarising filter are obtained when the sun is either to the left or right of the direction the lens is pointing.
Secondly, by CAREFULLY shooting towards the sun you can get some striking shots of dramatic silhouettes. Furthermore, how would/could you ever get shots of sunbeams streaking down through holes in the cloud layer (God Rays)?
By CAREFULLY, I mean doing all you can to stop the sun directly striking the front of the lens and causing lens flare by travelling down the lens barrel and onto the sensor. Flare shows as a set of one or more polygonal shapes travelling across the photo (often green or purple) or by a large faded looking circle or area. The polygonal shapes, mind you, CAN also add a sense of drama – and can often be seen on film footage featuring high altitude activities, such as climbing or skiing. To prevent flare either use the lens hood – better with the larger hoods that come with longer lenses – or hold a sheet of A4 card to the side of the lens to shield it from the sun (or get your mate to stand in the way!).
Landscape photography for me is all about (cliche alert!!) making pictures and not simply taking pictures. This being so, we do really need to use ALL those natural ingredients to very best effect to wow our audience. By always having the sun behind us we will produce great calendar or postcard shots for sure, but to shoot into the sun will add a powerful sense of mood, of drama.
So, dear client, the answer to your question is no. Absolutely not.
I would love to hear your thoughts and/or comments – have YOU photographed towards the sun and struggled or pulled off a masterpiece – let us know and share YOUR experience.
Into the sun at Port Eynon Point. Gower, south Wales