I very rarely photograph in the middle of the day. The light is harsh and direct. I have to work too hard to control the midday light, so I just don’t do it. However, I took some students on a field trip one day, and it just happened to be during the midday sun. What do you do? I look for smaller subjects, the landscape within the landscape, or as I like to call them, intimate landscapes.
This small plant I found just outside one of the buildings on the Boise State University campus. It was in total shade, but had a little bit of light being reflected on it from a pillar at the entry to the building. This soft, directional light is just what was needed to highlight the tips of the leaves and maintain good detail in both highlights and shadows, something that is near impossible to do in the direct sunlight at noon.
With smaller subjects, it is quite easy to block the direct light and create a soft directional reflected light. Some things that I have done in the past is to block the light with my own body, and often times if I am wearing a light shirt, that will reflect just enough light to do the job. Other times I will use a piece of mat board to provide the shade. Black foam core is a great tool to keep on hand for these situations. By blocking the light with black and bouncing in some light with white foam board you can gain total control over the light.
Remember, photography is all about the light. Learning to control and manipulate the light will give you a creative edge over those who can’t. It will most certainly open doors for creativity that would otherwise remain closed. It is one way to take your work to the next level and separate you from the amateurs.