• Austen Hunter

Fashion Photography at Joshua Tree National Park

Several months ago, I had the pleasure of shooting for Blue Violet Boutique at a location I had been meaning to shoot at for a while: Joshua Tree National Park. It was also an opportunity to shoot with a new Neutral Density Filter that I had purchased, allowing me to better expose my image during bright lighting conditions.

Joshua Tree is a popular shoot location for couples getting married and artists looking to get creative. About 120 miles east of Los Angeles, it gets its namesake from the Joshua Trees that have lived there for thousands of years. This desert attracts people from all walks of life, and as such, you can find a lot of creative variety in the photos that come out of this place.

I came into this shoot excited to field a new Neutral Density filter I had bought that would help me shoot in broad daylight. Normally, I don't experiment during client shoots, but in this case, it was necessary due to the time of day the shoot was scheduled for.

As a flash photographer, we rule the Golden Hour. Calibrating flash power is easy when the sun is low in the sky and the ambient light isn't super bright. This makes it easy to expose our photos to match the ambient light while adding flash to enhance our subject and make them pop. Shooting with flash in broad daylight, however, can be a little more challenging. That's because often there's too much ambient light for a proper exposure. To adjust, we have to either increase our shutter speed (thus limiting the power of our off-camera flash), or stop up the aperture - disrupting that shallow depth of field that's so important to portrait photography.

The solution? Add an ND filter. Neutral Density filters are like putting sunglasses on your lens, allowing you to reduce the ambient light without having to change your shutter speed or your aperture. Once you calibrate the ambient light with the proper ND filter, you are free to adjust your flash output without compromising its power or your lens' depth of field.

Fun fact: fixed ND filters work better than variables, as the variables have a tendency to create a vignette effect that looks ugly.

I am surprised it took me this long to add this $20 piece of gear to my toolbox, but I'm really glad that I did. It has given me so much more peace of mind when it comes to shooting in broad daylight, and has definitely enhanced the quality of my images.

The success of the new filter is reflected in the photos that resulted. I'm really pleased with how the exposure turned out on all the images. See for yourself:

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