In a studio, a photographer can control the shadows, light and textures shown in a photo by moving the lights around to hit the subject from different angles. When you’re traveling and taking photos outdoors, in order to control the angle of the lighting, you are limited to only a few options.

Landscapes, bridges, monuments and architecture, leave you at the mercy of the sun; they aren’t going to move for you. If the subject happens to be a person or animal, you may get some cooperation in changing the direction in which the lighting strikes them; see if you can place them in the best light.

IMGP8204 Mike LynchWith objects that cannot be moved, your choices are either, move your position in relation to the scene, or wait for the sun to move its direction. If you’re being guided on a tour, you’re probably going to have to go with the former option. Today’s photo was taken to demonstrate the effects of 90 degree side lighting. The fence is the subject, the bird is a bonus.

On the upright fencepost notice how the grain stands out, more distinctly on the left side, than on the right. This is the point where the sun was at a 90 degree angle to the post. This type lighting, also, gives the most dramatic difference between light and shadows. Had the background in this scene been a forest, rather than the ocean, one side of the trees would be in dark shade, the other side, in bright light.
Use 90 degree lighting when you want to capture the texture of an old wooden barn, building, stone wall fence or bridge. The best times to do this are before 9AM or after 3PM. The lower the sun is in the sky, the more texture you will notice, providing you’re in a position where you use the lighting to your advantage. Experiment and take a few shots with the light at 90 and 45 degrees from your subject. Then, take one with the sun directly behind you. See the difference in the texture and the shadows.
Until next time, Happy Shooting!

mikelynch200A wildlife photographer living in Okinawa, Japan, Mike has been published in Apogee Photo Magazine, Boots N all, Brave New Traveler, Go Nomad, Matador Abroad and Trips, The Nihon Sun, Travel Thru History, The Okinawan , Wend Magazine and Photo Guide Japan. He has recently joined the ranks of travel writers, capturing Nature, Festivals, Castles and Cultural shots of the Ryukyu Islands to share with the world.