Even with the beautiful, warm, late light of the setting sun I see photographers STILL make flat-lit photos by placing their cameras in the wrong spot relative to the sun. “If you want three dimensional, dramatic, images: you don’t look for the light—you look for the SHADOWS to find the light!”
So if you’re standing in front of a subject you want to photograph and you see NO shadows you’re in the wrong spot or it’s the wrong time of day; it’s that simple! Often, all I need to do is rotate my camera position 90 degrees from the flat light position or for real drama I’ll go to 180 degrees—it just depends on what I want people to look at and where I want texture versus how much shadow I want.
Walking around in an old tractor salvage yard an hour and a half before sunset I saw THOUSANDS of possible compositions, but if the light was too direct, and I could not rotate around it, or move it, I passed on creating an image and kept walking.
This first tractor was in a shaded area with some light filtering through a tree, so I started here because I knew its light would soon be gone. The basic “rule of thumb” being: shaded areas increase in size and intensity as the sun sets until all you have is a , flat, low level of illumination.
Next I found this old gas tank and, turning it over, found that the bottom, with it’s multi-colored pealing paint was the best subject. And, since I could MOVE it, I could create its best light by placing it so the setting sun skimmed the surface directly from the side (90 degrees from camera position).
This image below is one of my favorites from this salvage yard. This old tractor is so beat-up and rusted that it reminds me of a broken-down old prize fighter, left drooling the corner after taking too many blows to the head! For this image I rotated my camera position about 130 degrees from the sun—I’m standing on the shadow side—creating what we call “Short Lighting” on the “face” of the tractor; very dramatic!
“Short Lighting” is my favorite lighting pattern. I use it for portraits of people whenever I can because of its three dimensional quality.
This basic lighting concept—using shadows to create three dimensionality—cuts across ALL types of photography It is one of the MOST basic tenets of art.
’Til next week…as usual should you have questions please don’t hesitate to ask…