The Four Seasons Series: Summer Extremes
The harsh summer sun can create high-contrast lighting conditions that aren’t always conducive to general landscape photography, but despite what many photography magazines and websites will tell you, that doesn’t mean it should be put on hold when the sun has reached its peak. You need to find a way of working with the conditions rather than surrendering to them. There are a number of options available to you.
Scene Dynamic Range
It is worth looking at the problems caused by high-contrast lighting. To do this, we need to refer to the term “dynamic range,” which is the term used to describe the ratio between the brightest and darkest tones in a scene. It is important to note that the dynamic range doesn’t necessarily cover the extremes of pure black to pure white: in some situations the dynamic range will be much lower, extending only from light gray to dark gray in mist or fog, for example.
For all practical purposes, there isn’t a problem photographing low dynamic range (low contrast) scenes; although the results might look a little flat due to the low contrast, this is resolved easily by boosting the contrast in your image-editing software. However, high contrast scenes (those with a high dynamic range) can be more problematic.
The reason for this is because digital cameras have a fixed dynamic range. Most digital SLRs have a dynamic range of around 10–13 stops (the actual range depends on the make/model), which means they can only record detail within this range: if the darkest shadows and brightest highlights exceed this, then the dynamic range of the scene is higher than that of the camera and you will be unable to record detail in one or both of the tonal extremes in a single exposure.
Excerpted from Landscape Photography: The Four Seasons by Chris Gatcum © 2011 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved