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Tips On Photographing Sunbeams Through Trees

Learn how to capture beams of light bursting through trees, creating atmospheric and fairytale-like imagery in just a few steps.

|  Landscape and Travel
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The beauty of this time of year is that the sun rises at a more reasonable hour so an early morning jaunt to the woods isn't as painful as it was a few weeks ago. To top this already good news off, the chances of you finding mist circling around the trees is a lot higher at this time of year and when you mix this with your rising sun, you have the chance to capture strong beams of light as they burst through the trees.

 

Woods Light beams

Photo by David Clapp

 

Hope The Mist Is Right

You have to have the right type of mist for this - too thick and you won't be able to see the end of your nose let alone a sunbeam but if it's too thin there won't be enough moisture in the air for the light to reflect off. Read up on fog and mist techniques to become an expert at dealing with it. 

 

Take A Good Look At The Trees

It can be a little hit and miss but when the right density of mist does appear, you'll be able to capture some cracking shots as long as you have the right number of trees. Too many and you'll have broken, uneven patches of light but if there's too few the light will flood the open spaces leaving you with plenty of light but no beams. Your best bet is to quickly move to several locations to judge what looks the best before setting up camp. We say move quickly as the mist can vanish and the light can change quickly.

This also means you need to work quickly so do be familiar with your camera's controls and how you can adjust apertures etc. quickly to maximise your opportunities. Some cameras have dedicated dials you can assign specific controls to or offer ways you can access a particular setting more quickly. 
 

Position Yourself In The Right Place

For this to work properly you need to be shooting into the sun. Of course this means you could have problems with flare but if you position yourself so the sun's hidden by a tree or foliage the light won't be as bright.
 

Metering Tips

Metering is another tricky subject when you're working with direct sunlight and shadowy areas you don't want to lose too much detail in. To keep as much detail as possible don't meter from the direction of the sun instead, pick an area away from the light then compose your shot.

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