Saturday, July 10, 2010

Exploring with a Camera: Dappled Sunlight

This image fills me with a sense of peace. The greens and blues, the sheltering trees, the path to follow, with the archway leading you right around the corner into the sunlight. It's a safe, shaded place to pause before moving onward. Beautiful.

This path is part of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, where we spent one day hiking along a series of lakes with wonderful waterfalls. Just as spectacular is the path you follow, that winds you along and right up close and personal with the waterfalls or "splat" as they are called in Croat. It was an enjoyable day, a nice break from the cities we had visited to commune with nature and see something new.

I've often struggled with getting a good exposure in dappled sunlight images like this one because of the high contrast between full sun and full shade, a common problem in the middle of the day in the summer. Here are a couple of tips for your own explorations of dappled sunlight:
1. In the camera, underexpose. You want to make sure that the bright areas of sunlight on the leaves and the path are not overexposed or "blown out" completely. If that happens, you lose the ability to make any adjustments to those areas later in photo editing software.
2. In your photo editing software, consider two edits (I use Photoshop Elements):
- Adjust Levels to get back the "bright" areas if they were underexposed too much.
- Lighten shadows or Darken highlights to get less contrast between the light and the dark areas. I've found the biggest problem with dappled sunlight pictures is that the dark areas are too dark relative to the brighter area of the photo, so if you just lighten them up a bit it looks more like what your eye sees.

For this image, I underexposed a full stop in the camera and then just adjusted levels to brighten the highlights back up, because the exposure was pretty good overall. A small bit of cropping and I was done!

I also played with Pioneer Woman's Lovely and Ethereal Action for Elements, and I like the depth of color and the dreamy quality this one gives as well. I can't decide which one I like better!

Try your own dappled sunlight pics, and let me know how it goes! I've created a flickr group if you want to share your exploration results called Kat Eye View: Exploring with a Camera. Come join in!


  1. What a gorgeous photo. I love it!

  2. I can't make up my mind which I like best either! This photo makes me desperate to be standing on that path. Absolutely beautiful, and the tip is really great info. Fan page:!/pages/Me-Myself-and-You/105043419547115

  3. You really a taking me down the memory lane with these photos...I remember walking down these paths many years ago, this serious of photos is making really homesick, but in a good way :)

  4. This is sucha lovely post! Thanks for the photo tips!! Have a lovely merry happy weekend and love to yoU!

  5. Thank you for this post! I've always struggled with dappled sunlight in my photos. I'm a passionate photographer and constantly learning, so I really appreciate blog posts like yours. Both phtots are beautiful, but I think I like the second one a notch better - and please don't ask me why!


What's your view of the world? I love to hear yours too!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.