My aunt was a nature photographer, and one of her cardinal rules was always shoot with the sun at your back. For photos she took of some of her wilder subjects- like me- this resulted in many squinting portraits as I struggled to smile with the sun burning its way into my eyes.
For many years I took her advice to heart, carefully positioning the sun at my back for optimal exposures. It avoids the problems that lens flare can create, including hazy photographs. But it also takes away the options for shooting backlit photos that vibrate with color, and the ethereal rim light that outlines subjects with an amazing glow.
As autumn is ending I am literally searching out every hint of color, and found a shrub with a single bright red leaf less than a foot from the ground. I held the camera low and shot directly into the sunset. I positioned the sun at the edge of the leaf, and the flare appears to be burning right through it, with a golden glow beyond. Alone in the forest, I thought about the many sunsets we shared. My aunt has been gone many years, but I learned her real lesson. It doesn’t matter where the sun is because you only need your heart to really see nature.