Like everyone else under quarantine right now, our dogs are benefiting from multiple walks a day. I'm always scouting session locations and I found this one literally in my own backyard (or technically the golf course behind my back yard).
For the past few weeks I've been walking past this spot during my early morning outings with my dogs. It's on a small mound of earth and when the nearby tree came into bloom this spring, a few branches were low enough to create a small canopy over it. I recently caught it at the perfect time during a sunrise and "That would be a great spot for a photograph".
That was my plan for this week. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas. It's springtime in north Texas so that means lots of thunderstorms for Dallas - Fort Worth. I had one more day to try to capture a backlit sunrise and Wednesday morning brought clouds with clearing throughout the day. Plan B was required and that meant a whole lot of light to deal with.
Open Shade, but Dappled Light
By 10:30am the gusting winds (another staple of a north Texas spring) blew the clouds away and we had sunny skies. Off we headed with Rooney and my husband for an extra set of hands if needed. I knew the tree would provide us with some open shade so I could achieve nice results even with the sun high in the sky.
While open shade provides a break for the harsh overhead sunlight, I knew that Rooney's dark face would likely loose some detail if I didn't give it a little boost with a flash. Since I didn't have to light a large area, a speedlight was perfect for the job.
When photographing under trees with the sun high in the sky, you're going to get dappled light underneath. Sometimes you can find an evenly shaded patch to place your subject in, but even if you can, puppies rarely sit still for very long so you'll likely need a Plan C. Despite being filtered through the trees, you can see small areas of harsher lighting on his fur and on the grass. Especially that large bright spot right in front of him. Our eyes are naturally drawn to the lightest part of an image so we want that to be the subject's face, not a patch of grass.
Let's Scrim that Dappled Light
Plan C - I had figured there would be dappled light so I brought a scrim with us. A scrim is simply something used to diminish the intensity or harness of light. In this case I used a 55" translucent reflector. I didn't want to totally block the sun, just reduce the harsh dapples of midday light. That's where having an assistant (aka husband :o) comes in handy. Not only did he hold Rooney's leash, but he managed to hold the scrim over his head at the same time; better!
Behind the Scenes
Here's a little behind the scenes fun. The wind whipped up and blew the scrim down at the same time Rooney was taking a scratch break. The speedlight is off camera and just to my left. The thin leash was on for safety as Rooney's still a puppy and there were squirrels about.
This is week 18 of the Pet Photography 52 Week Challenge with the subject "let there be light". I had that in abundance by the time I photographed this on Wednesday so it was a good use of all that I've learned over the years on how to create a great image no matter the light conditions, because you don't always have control over that!
Tracy Allard of Penny Whistle Photography is a Certified Professional Photographer with the organization Professional Photographers of America; a designation held by fewer than 2,500 photographers nationwide and a hallmark of consistency, technical skill, artistry and professionalism. Penny Whistle specializes in both on-location and studio photography providing pet, equine, family, couples & engagement and high school senior portraits as well as corporate headshots and commercial photography services in her studio located in historic downtown Carrollton as well as on location in Coppell, Grapevine, Southlake, Flower Mound and surrounding communities in Dallas – Fort Worth, Texas. She donates much of her time and talent to local shelter and rescue groups to help animals in need.