Take me back to June or jump me forward to late August, because July weighs heavy on me. It’s a photography/nature lover thing. Light and energy. This is the month when the light goes overbearing across the landscape, usually under a brutal blanket of relentless humidity. The days go out of balance and wear-on. The hot-blooded twin of dreary January. July. What’s a photographer to do ?
Endure and get through it by looking for the opportunities. It can be tough. Here on Hilton Head Island July is prime visitor season. It is the season of family portraits on the beach. The best light is much more limited to perhaps an hour before sunset, and during sunset, which can stretch the limited patience and dinner time appetites of the kids. But the best portrait photographers make use of what’s available during those sessions by optimizing camera settings, additional light and most important of all, eliciting heartfelt emotion from their subjects (no matter how hungry, hot and/or tired!).
And there are pockets of opportunity for nature and landscape photography as well. I like to watch weather patterns because I’ve learned that even in during the dog days of summer a good storm front can still result in a dynamic sky with pleasing light, particularly here on the coast when a setting sun breaks through on the backside of a passing storm.
Here some of my tips for photography and where to look for good photo ops during July:
* Shoot early. Shoot late. As in pre-sunrise early and post-sunset late. Unfortunately this time of year there’s not much sleep time in between.
* Lenses in air conditioning suddenly exposed to high humidity will immediately have condensation. It’s best to acclimate cameras and lenses gradually so you don’t have to miss the shot while waiting for the “fog filter” to dissipate.
* Less is more when it comes to gear. Struggling with too much camera equipment while trying to take advantage of moving light is frustrating enough, but added weight in high heat and humidity only makes things worse. Stay cool, travel light. One of my favorite walk-around lenses is a 50mm that weights just a few ounces.
* If your subject is hot and uncomfortable it will show in the image. Get them under a tree and in the shade. Spot meter for skin tones when shooting against bright backgrounds outside of the shade. Go ahead and let the background get blown-out but get in close. Squinting eyes are only photogenic with big game predators, not people. Bright sunlight in July can be so harsh that even with it bouncing off off beaches, parking lots and buildings it is still way too much.
* Summer scenes in woodlands photograph horribly on bright, summer days. Green in direct, summer sun goes almost yellow and the range between shadows and bright spots is too far to effectively manage via camera meter and in exposure. Wait for subdued, more even light.
* Early morning visits to the garden with a good macro lens and little to no wind are always worth the effort. Get in close and fill the frame with color, texture and pattern. Always go with what it is that first catches your eye and then edit, edit, edit.
* Visit the mountains.
* Move to the mountains.
There is a reason for July. It’s times like these that help us appreciate spring and fall. For everything there is a season and good light always returns. Patience, a lot of fluids and air conditioning and we will soon be back in those times of the good light.