Winter is a wonderful time for wildlife photography. It’s a time of low suns, slow to rise and to set.
It’s a time of dust and hardship. Thirst and hunger and sometimes, of biting cold and frosty breath.
All this makes it easy to tell the story of winter using backlight.
Backlight is when the light shines from behind the subject and it is a wonderful light to work with whenever the sun is low and there is dust, smoke or cold breath in the air.
The light strikes the dust and atmosphere and sends red and orange glowing flare through the shot. At the same time, any fur or details on the edges of the subject catch fire and ring it with sublime light.
Even grasses on the ground and textures in the trees can burn with the light of the rising or setting sun.
To take a shot using backlight can take a little practice and requires that we place the subject carefully in the lens. We want to introduce flare, but not so much as to distort or damage the picture.
Lens flare occurs when the light source strikes the front of the lens, usually at an angle, and refracts through all of the lens elements before striking the image sensor. With telephotos it is very easy to introduce, particularly if we remove the lens hood.
At the same time, we need to drop the exposure in the shot - not enough for a silhouette (unless you want that) but enough to bring out all those highlights framing the shadows in our subject. Try 1 or 2 stops first and see how it goes with your camera.
Pretty soon, with practice, it will be second nature!