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Photography Tips for Cloudless Skies

Sébastien Beun is a landscape and travel photographer who has unique ways of seeing things. One of the advantages of seeing things differently is that you are naturally drawn to creativity and are more willing to immerse yourself in the environment. This allows you to come away with photos shot under challenging conditions. Because of this, it was no wonder that Sébastien came away with some very creative shots taken under cloudless skies during his recent trip to Hawaii.

In a recent interview with our InFocus Magazine, Sébastien shared these three simple tips for photographing on cloudless days.

Tip1: Use an Interesting Foreground

Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii

Sony A7r, Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8 II, [email protected], ISO 200

When I arrived at the scene above, the sun was too high in the sky but I was instantly attracted to the sun rays illuminated by the mist in Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island. I started to explore and experiment with different compositions, but quickly realized that I had to wait for a lower sun before I could get a decent shot.

Because the skies were uninteresting, I selected a composition that filled the frame with the foreground and that included as many sun rays as possible. Additionally, I used the mist and tree branches to capture a prominent sunburst which became the point of interest.

Tip 2: Photograph Stars and the Milky Way

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Sony A7r, Canon 16-35 F2.8L II, [email protected], ISO 1600

My objective in this photo was to get a decent shot of the caldera and the stars above it. My first attempt using a vertical composition was rather unappealing to me.  So, I decided to go with a wide angle lens and use the Milk Way to provide a compositional balance to the rich glow from the caldera. The Milky Way added an interesting element for users to explore in this photograph.

To capture this image, I had to use a wide aperture of f2.8. Because focusing was a challenge in the dark, I used a small headlamp and the marks on the lens to set the focus manually at infinity. The final image is a result of one shot processed twice… one for the glow in the caldera and one for the rest of the image. These two images were then merged together in Photoshop.

Tip3: Shoot in the Shade

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Sony A7r, Canon 16-35 F2.8L II, [email protected], ISO 100

My objective was to get a decent and creative photo of a massive tree which resided in a crowded environment with a limited choice of composition. As it turns out, the only time I had available to explore these magnificent giants was after my morning shoot and under the harsh midday light.

At first I shot details and macro under the tree because the light was too harsh for a wide-angle shot. But when I saw the sun peeking out from branches, I switched to a wide-angle lens and decided to use sunburst as point of interest. The use of a wide-angle lens helped me create the perspective I wanted of this giant tree. My selected composition ensured that the majority of the subject was in the shade. The over-all exposure was selected to bring out the details in the shaded area but I also used an aperture of f20 to create sun star.

So… the next time you find yourself shooting under clear blue skies, ask yourself the following:

What would Sébastien Beun do?
… and then follow your creative instincts.


Sébastien Beun

Sébastien Beun

I’m a thirty-something Belgium-based travel photographer, especially interested in landscape, nature and cultural photography. Photography, for me, is a lifelong and everlasting passion. It is what makes me feel emotions, breathe, live. Photography challenges me to share my life, my thoughts, my perception of the world that surrounds me, with others, and to share in their lives as well. From the waterfalls of Iceland, to the mountains of the Alps, the Palazzi of Venice, to a small Maasai village in Tanzania, to watching my children grow, photography is the rhythm to which I live my life.

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2 replies
  1. james burnham
    james burnham says:

    One of the more difficult things for people to do is just to “look down” when there is nothing happening up top. But even if you creatively include a blank sky, there’s always someone who will say, “You know, it would look great with some clouds..” 🙂

    Reply

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