Photographing Dramatic Light

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Glacier National Park - Varina PatelHere is is a shot from a workshop we taught in Glacier National Park in Montana in 2011. The morning was absolutely beautiful; we got this gorgeous sunrise with dramatic light… and alpenglow on the mountains. And then rainbows started dropping out of the sky as the sun rose. Wow!

Just how do you capture photos with dramatic light like these? Here are couple of tips to get you started:

1. Get down low.
I wanted to be really close to the rocks in the foreground to convey a sense of depth and to capture as much of the reflected light on the water as possible. A wide angle lens allows me to capture the foreground and the distance in sharp focus – with a little help from my good friend, Hyperfocal Distance. 😉

2. Look behind you!
I was shooting the mind-numbingly beautiful alpenglow on the mountain in the other direction when this happened… but I was constantly looking over my shoulder to see what was going to happen behind me as the sun approached the horizon. I’m glad I didn’t miss it!

3. Bring a towel. 😉
The lake looks smooth because I used a long exposure – 8 seconds for the brightest of the three shots – but it was splashing like crazy. It was also raining a bit too. Getting down low meant I had to keep drying my camera off as it got splashed. I stayed low only as long as necessary to capture what I wanted and then held the camera high to protect it until I was ready for the next shot.

Here are few more examples of dramatic light:

  • Beauty in the Desert - Varina Patel

    I got down low and close to the cactus to capture this shot.

  • Standing Guard @ Vik, Iceland

    I used a long exposure in between rain storms for this shot

  • Highlands, Iceland

    Jay noticed this scene when he looked behind him while shooting waterfalls in Iceland.

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.