I love to shoot into the sun. Or to give it it’s grander name: contre-jour, French for ‘against the day’.
Typically, the rule of thumb is to keep the sun at your back so your subject is lit by it but I hope you have noticed by now, I don’t much care for typical. So why shoot into the sun? Let’s take this shot as an example.
Firstly, not many people do it, so immediately that’s a box ticked. Then you get back lighting on the tyre smoke which amplifies it and with the trees in the background at Lydden Hill, you get shafts of light shining through it to add more interest. You also get the shadow of the car in shot, giving it more weight and I really like to see highlights glinting on a car as I think it gives it more dimension.
So that’s the why, what about the how?
It’s just a case of shooting as you normally would with some exposure compensation dialed in. So in this case I was in Shutter Priority mode as usual when I shoot motor sport. As this was one of the first images I took on the day, it was shot at 1/125th – a faster shutter speed than I generally use for panning but I get slower as a day goes on and I get into my groove. Being at f11 doesn’t matter as the background and foreground are blurred nicely due to the motion so I’m not worried about not having a shallow depth of field and it makes sure the car is fully sharp.
What the EXIF doesn’t show is that I had one and a third stops of positive exposure compensation dialed in. Without this, the camera does it’s 18% grey thing and under exposes the whole scene. I’d be left with grey smoke and a very dark car.
There are no photos to look at in this post. No behind the scenes videos. No tips or advice. Just one simple nugget of info that will hopefully go out into the world and save someone a little of their sanity.
On the advice of Zack Arias and Frank Doorhof I decided to dabble in the world of flash meters and treated myself to a Sekonic L-306S.
Out of the box, in with the battery and I’m off and running, playing around metering ambient light. Being a typical bloke/geek I didn’t bother with the manual but the 308S is fairly self explanatory so I fired up a flash and set about trying a little strobe metering to make sure everything was working as intended. It wasn’t.
No matter what power I set the flash to or where I held the meter the display always read “EU” – the symbol for underexposed – not enough light to even register. Once or twice I got a reading but then back to “EU” it went.
I started to think the meter might be faulty so I took drastic steps and sat in the lounge and read the manual! I even checked the videos on the Sekonic website. My male pride was restored when I realised I’d made no stupid mistakes. I also noticed that the meter was displaying “0” as I’d expect and not “EU”. I turned it off, back on, switched modes and it was working fine so into the studio to test again. “EU” straight away – no reading!
And then the penny dropped. Cordless Flash Mode sets the meter to wait until it sees a flash and then meters it. Simple and effective but confused by my energy saving LED lightbulbs. The 50Hz flicker LED bulbs give off is like 50 very low power flashes every second which the meter was detecting. The bulbs in the other room are halogen – no flicker, no confusion.
So the lesson is, if your flash meter is not doing what it should, make sure it’s not because of your light bulbs!