Dappled Details

     Every Wednesday, there's a nice park in my local area that hosts a nature play group.  For an hour, the girls listen to stories, dance, make a craft, and go explore outside.  They love the social interaction and it makes my day go by a bit faster, so it's a win-win.  The only downside?  It lets out just before lunch, when the sun is directly overhead.  As most of us have heard, that's not the best time to take pictures thanks to the harsh shadows cast on our faces and the inevitable squinty eyes.  Therefore, I've never bothered to take my camera along to the play group.

     Today, however, I decided to challenge myself.  While the girls were cutting and pasting the state animals of Oklahoma, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to shoot and how to work around the lighting challenges.  I then noticed that Adelynn was chewing on her hair.  This is a (pretty gross) habit of hers that usually frustrates me, but I realized that she hadn't done it in almost a month.  At that moment, I recognized that this quirk of hers was coming to an end and that I might *possibly* miss it one day.  The image I wanted to capture had been decided.

     The next part would be harder: how to work with the light to highlight this memory.  I remembered that the park staff had built a small fort out of branches by the playground, and I knew that would have to be the location.  Here it is:

     As you can see, the harsh shadows and squinty eyes are out in full force.  Since there were no clouds to diffuse the light, my only option was to shoot in the shade.  I got positively giddy when I saw the girls go in the fort and start pretending there was "a big, bad wolf" outside.  Why was I so excited?  Because the light was perfectly dappled on their faces.  Now dappled light is also something photographers are commonly told to avoid, but I feel that it can be used to your advantage if you have a plan in mind.  In my case, I knew that I wanted to bring the viewer's focus to my daughter chewing on her hair, and with a little patience and a lot of luck, I might be able to capture it. 

     Since we were in a relatively dark area with very bright spots of light dancing on their faces, I had to get proper exposure on their skin.  This means I had to expose for the highlights on her face, not the shadows.  If I had exposed for the shadows, the highlights would have blown out and I'd lose the exact details that I was trying to capture.  This was the hardest part...chasing a toddler and flecks of light while toggling my focus point to keep up, waiting for just the right second to hit the shutter.  After a couple of minutes of persistence, though, I got what I wanted.

      The final settings for this image is f/2.5, 1/1250, ISO 100, E/V +1.  Now the fun part begins!  I'm a huge fan of tight frames, so the first thing I did was to crop way in the only include her nose, mouth, and the three points of light.  I don't use presets for my color images, I just have a typical workflow that I go through: add contrast and clarity (this is necessary since I shoot in RAW), lower shadows, subtle split tone, and a heavy fade.  I also add grain most of the time because I dislike the perfection of digital images and prefer the feel of film...maybe that makes me weird.  Anyways, here's the final image:

     The final settings for this image is f/2.5, 1/1250, ISO 100, E/V +1.  Now the fun part begins!  I'm a huge fan of tight frames, so the first thing I did was to crop way in the only include her nose, mouth, and the three points of light.  I don't use presets for my color images, I just have a typical workflow that I go through: add contrast and clarity (this is necessary since I shoot in RAW), lower shadows, subtle split tone, and a heavy fade.  I also add grain most of the time because I dislike the perfection of digital images and prefer the feel of film...maybe that makes me weird.  Anyways, here's the final image:

     So there you have it, my process of creating an image from concept to final edit.  I shoot for about 5-10 minutes per day and edit for 20-30 minutes, but I'm always thinking up ideas and how to work with different situations.  Hope this was helpful for some!