Bowtie Arch at Midday

How do you deal with harsh light? Do you pack up your camera and go hang out in the hotel? Or do you hike a few trails – exploring the area and looking for shots that work even when the light isn’t “ideal”? Whatever that means. :)

You always hear about shooting during the golden hour – and that’s great advice. But most serious photographers aren’t setting up 30 minutes before sunset, and packing it in as soon as the sunset is over. Most of us are out there no matter the conditions – and we’re doing our best to work with the light we have. Learning to handle the light is a huge part of photography. Maybe the most important part. ;)

I took this shot right in the middle of a hot, sunny day. Not a cloud in the sky. Brilliant blue overhead and blinding light bouncing off every surface. Exactly the kind of light that we are supposed to avoid. But that’s actually what I wanted for this shot. I took the shot in the shade – just a few meters to each side, the face of the rock was brightly lit. But here – under a huge shelf of rock, the sandstone was cool and evenly lit. No harsh shadows. No blinding highlights. And to make things even better, the intense sunlight was bouncing all over the place – reflected light bounced and rebounded from every surface. And this is the result. The rich colors in the sandstone really stand out – and even the darkest shadows are getting some light.

I got in close to the stained rock in the foreground, and chose a composition that included the patterns and the arch itself – but none of the bright sunlit areas around me. The results is an abstract shot that shows off the incredible beauty of the location – with none of the distractions that black shadows and blown highlights would bring.

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