Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Unsettled Weather

This time of year
makes you feel like staying inside. Icy temperatures and wet weather are not really good for photographic equipment (and wimpy photographers like us!) so we often opt to stay indoors where its warm and dry. You can't blame us right?

One thing about storms that is usually true is that, as they approach, the cloud formations will make for some nice imagery provided there is enough light to see by. I live in Northern California where the skies are relatively blue most days, so when a storm rolls in during the Fall or early Spring, the skies take on a whole new depth. Dark clouds add contrast that makes the whiter portions stand out.

In the opening photograph,
I attempted to use the contrasty clouds as the backdrop for this multi-layered image. The shed in the foreground also helps to add depth to the expanse of yellow blossoms in this old orchard in Morgan Hill. Had the sky been clear, the image wouldn't have been nearly as interesting to me.

As the storms pass over us,
they wet the streets and buildings making the light bounce around in wonderful ways. Often times, on movie sets, the producer will ask for a water truck to come by and wet the pavement (its called a "wet down") to take advantage of the reflectivity. Actors and Models take on a more pleasing appearance as the light bounces off the wet surface and into their faces.

As the ground dries out we have
another benefit: Puddles! Puddles serve as little reflectors which can really add a great deal of interest.

In the photograph above, the dark roadway beneath the puddle really helps to cast a blue hue on the reflected sky that make this shot interesting to me. Had it not recently rained, I would have just kept on walking.

Don't be afraid
to go outside when the storms are approaching. You may end up with some fascinating photographs. Oh, yes, remember: Lightning loves tripods, so be careful out there!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Golden Light

What is "The Golden Hour"?
In the early days, I'd often heard of the phrase but wondered what it meant. Basically, the term refers to the time of day when the sun is low in the sky, where the color of light is stained by the atmosphere and the shadows are deep.

Think of it it like this:
Because we live on a spherical planet covered by a thin transparent atmosphere, the sun's rays penetrate and pick up the color of whatever the air contains. Water droplets, dust, even smog serve to color the light. When the sun is high above, say between 10 AM and 2 PM, the suns rays pass through the thinnest portion of the air. They pick up the least amount of color and make the light ordinary and mundane.

When the sun is low,
the light passes through a greater amount of air which colors the light either yellow or red. That's why sunrises and sunsets are often so beautiful. Generally the "Golden Hour" is considered to be the time early in the morning about an hour after sunrise, or in the evening about an hour before sunset.

During this time,
Light hits objects from the side giving us a broader view and letting us see into the depths. When shot from behind, this low angle light, wraps the subject and highlights the edges. Did you ever hear of a cloud's "silver lining"?
Also, shadows elongate and darken, adding depth to the scene.

In the opening shot,
The model stands in the doorway looking out at some children playing in the yard outside. The light wraps her sweater and highlights the edges. Her hair glistens as it's bathed in the golden evening light. In the background, almost too subtle to notice, spring blossoms float on a gentle breeze.

Photography can change the way you see the world.
When you become interested in the art for the first time, you begin to appreciate light and its qualities. Each of us knows, that at a certain time in your home, the light will take on a golden glow and reach in through the window making the room come alive!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Your Own Worst Enemy

Have you ever wondered how people get so good?
What is it about them that allows their imagery to reach out and nourish another human soul? Then, when we look at our own work, we say to ourselves: "That shot could be better; The lighting is all wrong; The subject is in the wrong place..." Its as if we
have our own little critic that speaks to us inside our heads. We begin tearing ourselves down, whispering to ourselves "Your not good enough..." ...sigh...

I think that good artists are those who know how to turn off the critic within; They know how to have fun being creative and experience the shear joy of it in a childlike way.

I remember the first shot I took that sent a chill down my spine. My wife and her sister were walking far ahead of me on a snowy path that curved out of the frame. I was just playing with the camera and I snapped the shutter. When I saw the image on the LCD, my heart skipped a beat. The image I'd just made touched my soul. That shot was THE one that showed me that, even I, could be creative.

After that,
I bought all the right gear, began listening to several podcasts, and began re-learning all the teachings of the masters that surround us. I got to the point where I thought I was good. But there are so many others who are so far beyond me that lately, I find myself not willing to pick up the camera as often; I listen to my inner-critic: "I am not good enough."

I heard
an excellent interview today where a photographer,
Ibarionex R. Perello, spoke with an accomplished musician, Stephan Oberhoff. Stephan had a way of articulating how we grapple with our own self-doubt, and how it stops us from moving forward. He also spoke about allowing yourself the time of day to work on your art. The parallels from photographer to musician are many. Perhaps our own self-doubt is a quality all too human and thus difficult to recognize and deal with.

I was inspired by the interview.
It was as if I got a chance to know that even the most accomplished still have within themselves, that little voice that whispers.

I know now
that I have to keep trying. I have to give myself the time of day to just play, and create, then, I have to separate the "creative process" from the "critical process". I need to stop listening to the whispers

We all do!