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Photos reminiscent of mornings – Working on subjects and composition

Morning is the start of each day. It is a time when subjects sparkle in the clear morning air. Find out more about selecting suitable subjects and compositions to express a refreshing start to the day here. (Reported by: Kazuo Nakahara)

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How to take moving photos of the sunrise

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 35mm/ Manual exposure(1/320sec., f/10)/ISO 100/WB: Daylight

A scene of the sunrise taken from a mountain. When taking photos of the sunrise, the ability to make instantaneous judgements, such as how to maintain the balance between the sky and the sun as well as how to suppress image blowouts, is necessary.

In the case of this photo, the shot was taken with a 35mm angle of view in order to maintain a balance between the intensity of the sun and the wide expanse of the sky. If the picture is treated as a landscape and is taken with an ultra-wide angle of view of about 24mm without careful consideration, the sun's impression will be weakened as it would only appear as a speck. To maintain a balance between the sun and the sky, an angle of view of about 35-50 mm is recommended. On the other hand, if you want to emphasise the expanse of the sky or the colour gradation, an ultra-wide angle of view is probably better for that. If you want to make the sun the main subject and take a close-up shot of it, an angle of view of about 100-200mm is suitable. The image of the morning is usually one in which a moderate amount of blue appears. Therefore, the White Balance (WB) is set to "Sunlight" in order to retain the sky's blueness. If it is set to a warm colour such as "Cloudy", the impression given would be more of a sunset instead.

Let's take a look at the shot of the sunrise taken from the top of a mountain again. In it, the clouds are dramatically expressed. To fully capture the details of the clouds, the aperture was set to f/10. I used a manual exposure because I wanted to control the brightness with the shutter speed in order to prevent blowouts in this scene of a morning glow that has an intense difference in luminance. At the same time, the Highlight alert was set to ON to determine the areas in which blowouts could appear and those that should not have any.


Use a standard lens to bring out the sun

With a telephoto lens, only the sun is enlarged while a wide-angle lens will result in the sun becoming smaller. Use the EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM to capture the interplay between the sun and the sky.

Turn the Highlight alert ON to check the silhouette of the sun

Turn on the Highlight alert to find where blowouts might occur. There isn't much you can do about the centre of the sun but I didn't want to make the boundary between the sun and the white clouds (the area outlined in red) unclear.

Capture cloud details clearly with an exposure of 1/320 sec at f/10

The exposure that allows the brightness of the sun to be expressed and the details of the clouds to be captured clearly turned out to be 1/320 seconds at f/10. The expression of the clouds impart a dramatic effect to the photo of the sunrise.

How to shoot bustling images in the morning

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 16mm/ Shutter-priority AE (1/4sec., f/22+0.3EV) / ISO 200/ WB: Using tungsten light / ND filter

Humans appear to be swallowed up by the gigantic buildings in this low angle-looking shot.

Capturing images of people heading to work

Morning images are not just limited to images of the sun at sunrise. Turn your attention to the streets and you will find lots of people starting a bright new day.

In the case of this photo, in order to emphasise the movements of the people, the Shutter-Priority AE was set to 1/4 for a slow shutter speed to blur the movements. A tripod is essential as a shutter speed of 1/10 second or higher is necessary to blur the movements of the people. In addition, a ND filter is also required when shooting outdoors at this time of day with a slow shutter speed. The WB was set to "Tungsten Light" to achieve a fairly cool colouring so as to capture the mood of the morning.


Use an ND filter and slow down the shutter speed

Light rays in summer are strong even in the morning. To shoot at a slow shutter speed, use a ND8 filter and slow down the shutter speed by three steps.

Pedestrian crossings where everyone walks out all at once are great for expressing the movements of people

Capture scenes of people heading to work in the business district during rush hour. It's easier to shoot pictures of people in motion at a pedestrian crossing when the traffic light has just turned green as everyone walks out all at once.

How to shoot the morning atmosphere

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 138mm/aperture priority AE(f/4, +0.7EV)/ISO 200 WB: Tungsten light

Using the vegetation to the sides of the footpath as the main subject, a refreshing and clear image that evokes a morning scene was presented.

Creating a composition in which more than two-thirds of the screen has a bokeh effect

The morning air is refreshing and clear. It also brings to mind an image of tranquillity. Such an impression can be conveyed with the composition of the photograph.

Make use of the space to create a tranquil impression. It is good to maintain a space of at least 2/3 in the composition using the rule of thirds. Use a telephoto lens where possible to blur the space substantially while keeping the main subject in focus. If a lens with a bright aperture is used, the reflection of the light will appear as a beautiful, round bokeh, imparting an impression of summer. The key point is to target a bright spot in the background here. If the background is dark, the bokeh impression is weakened and the refreshing feeling is lost.


Select a background with a good outline to easily create bokeh

The bokeh effect is easier to create by keeping the subject as far away from the background as possible and by shooting in bright locations.

Blur out everything other than the main subject to increase the bokeh effect

When the subject is close to the background and is all jumbled up, the amount of bokeh decreases, and the image becomes messy. For example, even if half the screen has the bokeh effect, the image no longer conveys tranquillity.

Kazuo Nakahara

Born in Hokkaido in 1982, Nakahara turned to photography after working at a chemical manufacturing company. He majored in photography at the Vantan Design Institute and is a lecturer for photography workshops and seminars, in addition to working in commercial photography. He is also a representative of the photography information website studio9.