I took this shot in White Sands National Park in New Mexico just before sunset. The sky is heavy with deep, blue clouds – but an opening in the clouds at my left shoulder allowed soft, evening light to dance across the dunes. Notice, how I’ve used that light to bring out the textures in the rippling sand. When the sun is high in the sky, the soft shadows disappear, and the ripples get lost in the brightness.
Take a look at one of Varina’s photos from the same park (above). This shot was taken around mid-day – under a heavily overcast skies. The light is filtered through a heavy cloud layer, and lacks any directional lighting at all. This image shows a completely different kind of light. Can you see how the side-lighting in the first image enhances the ripples in the sand? Varina’s shot is beautiful for different reasons – it’s a stark, minimalistic representation of the scene, where texture is less important than form.
Look for great side-lighting when the sun is low in the sky – just after sunrise in the morning, and in the evening before sunset. To learn more about light and composition, check out our ebooks below: