The second post in my series "All About The Light" will focus (pun intended) on front-lighting. If you're new to photography, you may think that front light is coming at you, aimed at your front or the front of the camera. This is a common mistake. Front light is actually coming from behind you and hitting the front of your SUBJECT. I have to admit, it's not my "favorite" lighting situation. I actually had a difficult time looking through my images to find examples of front lighting. Apparently I don't utilize it a lot...pretty rarely in fact. But, I have to talk about it so let's just get this over with. Kidding...
Front light is also referred to as flat light. When it illuminates the front of your subject, it de-emphasizes detail, texture, lines, and contrast. If you want to look younger, front lighting is for you. Although now you're squinting...I guess we just can't win!
Here is a popular scene to photograph at Zion National Park in Utah, The Towers Of The Virgin. Swamped at sunrise with photographers, the front of this range is bathed in morning light. I'm not saying this isn't a nice scene. It's popular for a reason. I'm just saying that the Towers are kinda flat. If it weren't for the trees in the foreground, the whole scene would look overly 2 dimensional.
Another Zion scene, the Mesa. Taken at mid day with the sun overhead. The light strikes the ground straight on. The image is somewhat boring. Not a horrible photo but definitely not a contest winner or attention grabber.
Sometimes we don't have much of a choice and we have to work with the light that is available to us. Here, I photographed a laughing gull from my paddle board at Crab Bank in the Charleston Harbor. Not possible to get behind him so he would be back lit so I took this image. Front lighting can work just fine for wildlife. It's just not that exciting in my opinion.
Ok...so it's obvious I'm not a huge fan. However, there is one front light situation that I absolutely love. Front-lit scenes with a brewing storm in the background. Perhaps it's the mix of primary colors that entices me (blue and yellow), or perhaps it's simply because I don't get to see it very often. The sun has to be relatively low in the sky and breaking through the clouds to light up the foreground in front of that ominous background. Rainbows are often seen with this type of situation. Another rare thing. The image below was taken at Shem Creek Park near Charleston SC. The sun was only out for a few minutes but it illuminated the foreground beautifully.
And of course...Rainbows! The sun was behind me, the rain in front of me. Gotta love it!