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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Golden Light Photography

Use the warm light of the “magic hours” to your advantage

This Article Features Photo Zoom

He often utilizes the natural reflective surfaces in the area, too. Sand, snow and lightly shaded rocks can provide enough bounced light to fill the areas that have too much shadow, like profiles that are obscured by the rim of a cowboy hat. When there isn't enough natural fill, he always has a foldable reflector nearby. Many reflectors come as a fairly neutral silver light bounce or with a gold material for a warmer touch. Reversible reflectors provide both. Usually, though, Stoecklein finds that the light is just perfect during the golden hour.

"I usually don't worry about filling," he says. "I have a little reflector, one of those fold-up reflectors, and it pops open and it fits inside my Pelican case. If I really need to open it up, I'll use something like that. But most of the time, in the conditions that I work in, there's a lot of reflective light coming off the ground, or coming off buildings or whatever, and in that case, you get beautiful light. So if you expose for their face, you don't really need that much fill."

It's just as important, if not more so, for Stoecklein to be able to block light as it is for him to be able to bounce it on the subject and on the lens. He uses black flags and cards to block light as necessary, even occasionally asking an assistant to hold up a cowboy hat to stop direct light rays from hitting his lens. It's often easier to place himself in shadow, but no matter what, he always has his lens shade.

"I see so many photographers walking around with a 70-200mm with no lens shade," he laments. "Lens shades are so important, and that's why I really work with trying to block that ambient light with a flag or a tree-or a porch, where you get a giant shadow. Then you shoot out at your subject, who's out there in the light, and you can't believe what it does. It's a whole different world."

Stoecklein has been using a primarily digital workflow for more than three years, but he also uses traditional photographic tools when he feels the need. "I still like to have as much as I can of my image finished in the camera," he says. "You can still do it in one shot in the camera, and for me it's easier, because I'm not a great Photoshop person."

He's a big fan of Lee resin filters and finds that the coral filters, in particular, work well to enhance the golden light of the evening hour. Stoecklein also uses graduated neutral-density filters for tailoring exposure as the light changes in a scene. Sometimes, the background light is great, but the subject isn't in good light. In those cases, he pulls out his tried-and-true Lowel quartz lights for a warm fill that matches the mood of the evening glow.


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