Finding Light in Nature
In conversations with other photographers of varying degrees of experience, it usually does not take long to get to the topic of light and lighting. To be brutally honest with myself, I struggle with it. Especially when taking my outdoor shots. Because let’s face it. You can’t just go out and readjust the Sun and I have yet to find a good effective method of reversing time in order to relive a moment.
Light can make or break a scene and for the landscape photographer the Sun is only in the same general location one time a day for maybe a week before the scene is lost. Not just lost for the year, lost forever. The Sun has its own path through the heavens, finding it in the general location can take patience beyond most tolerance. If I see a shot in nature I try my best to capture it immediately. You cannot come back to it later. If I can’t take the shot, I make notes. The time of day, the date, any angles, or oddities that make the picture work. Something made me stop and ponder the scene. There must be a reason. What was it? I try to gather the data and make a plan to return the next day on time and prepared.
The next question I ask myself is a much more difficult one for photographers not in tune with the Sun’s daily movement. I ask myself if there may be a “better” time to take the scene. If I wait later will the shadows length get more interesting? If I wake up earlier or show up on a weekend will there be less foot traffic or parked cars in the scene? I call this people clutter. It is a topic for another time but I love to take pictures of what man has constructed, not of man himself. Capturing that shot of an urban scape without people in the picture can take some serious patience and even more patience when attempting to get the lighting just right. I once took a few mediocre pictures of a castle in Ireland (Not the polish castle pictured.) seconds before and seconds after a freak miniature hails storm. The tourists vanished during the storm and I got a rare human free photo of a tourist destination in the midday Sun. It taught me a great lesson about using Mother Nature to my advantage when you are looking for that one picture and gave new meaning to the term “Storming the Castle”.
As a photographer of landscapes and nature I know the Sun and time are one in the same. I know that fighting light is like fighting time. A lost and useless battle that is best not fought at all. So one has to adapt, and learn to take the instant opportunities that we are awarded, and find the light in Nature. Who knows, the tedious patience may pay off.
I plan on a return trip to that Irish castle this year with much upgraded skills and equipment. What are the chances of another hails storm? Slim to none I know. I can only assure you that if a miracle occurs. I will be the crazy guy standing at ready in the ice storm with my lens dialed in for the instant the clouds break.
Photo credits: Frui.