A current challenge in the Treasure Hunt group is to take a photograph "contre jour", or "against the light". You've probably heard the advice to never shoot into the sun or other light source, but sometimes ignoring this advice can result in photos with some interesting effects such as silhouetted shapes, strong contrasts, beautiful back lighting and lens flares.

But first a note about safety! Never point your camera directly at the sun (or other really bright light)!! Doing so can damage your camera's sensor and more importantly and scary - your eyes! But you already knew that, right? Contre jour is actually one technique that's well suited to P&S cameras, because you view what you're shooting on the LCD screen rather than through a viewfinder. If you have a dSLR, it's often a good idea to just aim and shoot without looking through the viewfinder. Review your shot on the LCD screen and make positioning adjustments accordingly. If your dSLR has a "live view" function it can come in handy too.

Here are a few tips for taking contre jour photos:

1. Place your light source just barely outside the edges of your frame. In the shot below, the sun was just outside the upper right hand corner of the frame. It back lit the flowers and also resulted in some lens flare.

And in this shot, the sun was just above the top edge of the frame and a little to the right, which resulted in some dramatic light rays and a bit of flare.

2. Put your subject matter between you and the light source and then let the light source shine out a bit from behind your subject. In the shot below I was standing in the shadow of one of the trees as the sun rose and the fog was lifting.

And the one below was done in a similar manner, but I let more of the sun come through.

3. Let the light shine through something. In this shot I stood in the shade of some big trees and positioned myself so that the sun was just barely obscured by the branches in the upper left hand corner. The grasses and shrubbery in the foreground and background were back lit by the sun, and because they let the light through they were not thrown into silhouette.

In the shot below, the light shines through the petals of the poppies, making them positively glow.


4. Try shooting with as large an f-stop as your camera is capable of. This can help you get those cool star shaped light flares. The shot below, taken through a car window, had an aperture of f/25.


Well, those are my tips, but I'm no expert and I'm sure other folks have equally good, if not better, tips for shooting contre jour and I'd love to hear them!

PS - For those of you doing this month's Treasure Hunt, I want to emphasize that I'm NOT looking for silhouettes for this particular challenge. We'll save that techinique for another time!