Great light is typically a requirement for many photographers to consider shooting. You know the routine; by heading out at sunrise or sunset, the likelihood of exquisite color increases. Yet, what about the rest of the day? Imagine the possibilities if you could spend even more time making pictures. Actually, by shooting mid-afternoon, you can do just that. When the sun is high in the sky, dark shadows become more pronounced, making it possible to create very interesting compositions all day long.
All you need is a sliver of light to make an effective photo. By slightly underexposing the shadow area, it’s represented as inky black tonality. These kinds of contrast situations can yield dramatic results so I encourage you to seek them out. Look beyond the well-lit subjects, opting instead for the forgotten dark corners of the scene. The Brothers Quay, known for their evocative films said, “What happens in the shadow, in the grey regions, also interests us – all that is elusive and fugitive, all that can be said in those beautiful half tones, or in whispers, in deep shade.”
By incorporating shadows into your images, they take on a moodiness not often found in bright, evenly-lit scenes. Be careful though, if you’re in a rush, you’ll pass right by these chances. You just never know when or where an interesting opportunity will present itself. When I was in Greece, the shadows of buildings were cast onto the clouds in the sky. This was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and it certainly made for an interesting capture. By learning to be a visual explorer, you can capture the mysteries of our planet with your camera.
This branch, illuminated by light and surrounded by darkness may look like an ordinary subject, but it’s meaningful to me. There was a time when I would have walked right past this without even giving it a glance. Today however, I enjoy studying nature more closely and observing the subtle ways shadows and light play off of each other. Sometimes we need to search a little harder, look a bit closer, and slow our pace. By finding your own light, you’ll embrace the shadows as well.
There are no specific rules to dictate the way your photo should be captured or presented. Use this creative freedom to explore your subject from all angles. An image can even be flipped upside down for special effect. This is quick to accomplish in post production by simply rotating the image.
Perhaps nothing is more satisfying to a photographer than making a beautiful photo out of an ordinary scene. Anyone can shoot a double rainbow, but only those with a well-developed eye will stop to recognize these quieter moments.
In order to sharpen your visual senses, try a self-assignment with “shadows” as the theme. This can be done anywhere, from a quiet park to a busy city. Chances are, you can find unique opportunities in the comfort of your own home.