EYV 4 Exercise 4.2
In manual mode take a sequence of shots of a subject of your choosing at different times on a single day. Briefly describe the quality of light in each image.
I decided to take two sets of images on the same day, one of an interior lit from behind the camera by a window that faces due east, and the other an exterior view out of a west-facing window. In both series the most rapid changes in the light are (unsurprisingly) seen at dawn and dusk. At dawn the light is diffuse and warm-toned, with an intense blue sky in the exterior series. In both sets artificial light (from a street lamp and an electric light in the hallway) adds to the warm tones from the rising sun. As the early morning progresses, shadows in the interior shots sharpen rapidly, reaching peak sharpness around 8.00 am when the sun’s rays shine directly in through the window.
Thereafter the sun rises above window height and shadows soften again. As it passes over the top of the building around midday, the sheds in the garden start to become increasingly prominent as they receive more and more direct light from the sun. The hue of the light in both interior and exterior series reaches its whitest around midday, and continues to cool gradually through the afternoon, reaching a distinctly blueish tone around 5.00 pm. This tone is picked up strongly by the blueish shed, which becomes more prominent than it has been all day.
In the evening street lamps and interior lighting bring back warmer tones, now slightly less magenta and a little more yellow in hue than at dawn. The blue sky seen in the morning does not, however, reappear in the exterior series, perhaps only because there is now full cloud cover.
Although I am an early riser and love that time of day, I had not consciously realised previously how interesting the early morning light is, beyond being generally aware that it often has a “bright new day” feeling about it, which is one of the reasons I like it. Together with the sections on morning, noon, evening and night light respectively in Präkel (2013), this exercise has given me a much clearer understanding of what I can expect the pros and cons of natural light to be at a particular time of day. I now understand why I’ve had such problems with glare and harsh shadows in some of my early afternoon shoots, and have made a mental note to experiment with early morning shooting.
The time immediately before and after sunrise is a magical time for photographers. Before the sun rises, the light is richly red towards the rising sun and deep violet blue away from it. Immediately before the sun rises, this light will become pinker, only becoming golden yellow as the sun breaks over the horizon.
– David Präkel (2013, p.56)
Noon summer sunlight, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky, is often considered too harsh for photography […] Sunlight high in the sky may produce unattractive shadows below the eyes and cause squinting, though it does give saturated colours. The biggest problem is that overhead light gives little or no modelling on landscape features […]
– David Präkel (2013, p.58)
While morning light is seen as soft and diffuse, evening light is a stronger, low-angled source that casts long shadows. Now that all morning mists have long been burned off, evening images will be crisper.
– David Präkel (2013, p.60)
The darkness of light can be both a security and source of fear. It is how light is introduced to illuminate the darkness that creates one feeling or another. […] The photographer… can use… pooling of light and darkness by carefully controlling a simple light source […] allowing deep shadows to hint at what may or may not be there.
– David Präkel (2013, p.62)
References and resources
Präkel, D. (2013) Basics Photography 02: Lighting (2nd ed.). London, UK: AVA Publishing.