Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How To Photograph God Rays

If you haven’t heard the term, “god rays”, it refers to those streams of light that emanate from the location of the sun and stream in all directions into and through the scene in front of you. Mostly we see these rays streaming down, but you will find situations where they are streaming in all directions. It all depends on the conditions present in the scene.

Kapaa Beach

In the image above taken on Kapaa Beach in Kauai, you can see that the rays are shooting up as well as down. The rays are visible because they are lighting up particles in the atmosphere. The light is filtered, that is, the light is interrupted by clouds in portions of the image and that is what gives the rays definition. 

Take away the clouds and leave the particles in the sky and you would see what would look like a hazy glow. For an image like this one I recommend you use a tripod, turn off image stabilization, use mirror lockup or shoot in live view, use a hand held remote or your 2 second timer.  Meter the scene and take the picture. You will also need to decide whether or not the dynamic range of the scene warrants your bracketing the image.

Central Oregon Coast

I will shoot god rays just about any time I see them.  But if I am going to go looking for them the time I like best is mid morning.  The forest scene above was taken at 9:30 am.  There was still mist in the air and the light was filtered by the trees so it was a great time to be photographing.  If you can find a setting with a dark background it will help to make the light rays stand out.  On this particular morning we had spent a couple of hours shooting sunrise and when we were all finished we ventured into a wooded area in search of the light.  Photographing these rays can extend your morning shoot while leaving the golden hour for other subjects.

Hug Point, Oregon

The image above is of Hug Point on the coast of Oregon. As you can see it is just after sunrise and the light is filtered by the ridge of trees. There is a slight mist in the air making the visibility of the rays possible. What you cannot see is that these rays were not visible from other areas on the beach. 30 feet to my right, which is where I was standing just before taking this shot, I could not see the rays. What I did see was the speckled light on the sand so I moved toward the light and horizontally to the scene until the rays  showed up. If you are in the right conditions, namely, filtered light with mist in the air and you don’t see god rays, look for speckled light on the ground and then move around going toward or away from the scene and left and right. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park

On my way home from Oregon I passed through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. It was morning and I glanced to my left, saw god rays galor in the trees and came to a screeching stop. I was in luck, as there was a path leading from the pullout into the forest. There were lovely scenes all around me. If you can it is a good idea to find some foreground interest to include in you image.  Here the path lends some mystery and intrigue to the image and helps pull the viewer into the scene.

If you enjoyed these images you might want to visit Bob's website to see more of his fine art landscape photography.

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