Summer Coda | Photographing Reef Ireland

Actor Reef Island in Mildura on the set of Australian motion picture film, Summer Coda.

At the end of a discustingly hot day, my first on set, I had the opportunity to photograph, albeit for only a few minutes, young up and coming Australian actor Reef Ireland. Still at high school Reef had to balance his duties on set with the stress and strains associated with a busy school life. The Australian romantic comedy, Summer Coda, gave Reef the chance to mix and work with some of the big names of Australian film including Rachel Taylor and Susie Porter.

The crew had just completed a long day filming at the Mildura Railway Station and had almost completed packing up when I approached Reef for permission to make a few photos. I thought they'd be a good memory for him and his family of his time in Mildura.

The Brighter the Light the Darker the Shadows Photograph

It was finally starting to cool down but, with the sun still bright, I headed for the shade provided by some large palm trees. Sadly, the shade cast by the trees was not large enough to adequately cover the area encompassed by my frame.

Backgrounds that are significantly brighter than the subject introduce numerous problems for the photographer. Your camera, not understanding the importance of your subject compared to the background, will base exposure on the brighter background. As a consequence your subject photographs too dark, often as a silhouette. There are ways to override your camera's light meter and lighten the subject. However, such adjustments are global and will result in the entire image (e.g., subject and background) being lightened. The viewer, while understanding the difference in importance between subject and background is, nevertheless, drawn to the brighter background.

Beware Of Photographing Under Dappled Light

The other problem I had was light, coming through the branches of the palm tree, casting a dappled effect over the subject. To resolve the problem I asked Reef to sit down on his haunches. This allowed me to point my camera downwards and, in doing so, frame out the bright sky background. By asking Reef to move his head, ever so slightly to the right and up, I was able to position the beam of light, coming through the branches, onto his face.

I very much like the way this approach emphasises the sultry nature of Reef's expression. I wish him the best of luck in his future film career.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru