Turn The Worst Light Into The Best Light - 8/04/08
Shooting shadows makes sunny days more interesting
When I'm faced with a seemingly impossible situation—where I can't find anything extraordinary, and I'm shooting under the horrid midday light—I remember to wait and look for something ordinary so that I can turn it into something great. It's then that I remember the most ordinary, yet almost always interesting subject: shadows. The light on these bright, sunny days also happens to provide the best shadow-shooting opportunities.
Shadows are two-dimensional objects that take on more weight in photographs. They are easily overlooked in real life, but confined to the two-dimensional plane of a picture. They take on the same graphic power as typically more noticeable three-dimensional objects. In short, shadows are hidden gems just waiting to be photographed.
One interesting exercise for shooting shadows is to stop looking at the subjects around you and start looking at the shadows they cast instead. Suddenly a whole new world will open up—one that makes other people see your shots and say, "How did you even see that? It's extraordinary!"
When the light is very sunny, everywhere you turn you'll find dramatic and interesting shadows. Look for objects full of graphic lines and shapes themselves—they're bound to cast interesting patterns—particularly if the light source is at a strong angle and turns the graphic shadow into an exaggerated shape. This is obviously more likely later in the afternoon or evening on a sunny day.
Things like chairs, railings and fences, anything linear rather than blob-like, is an ideal candidate for shadow shots, but even people and other shapes can cast interesting shadows. Shadowed shapes can easily be made into graphically pleasing abstractions, or used as another way to reveal the dimension of an object in your photograph. They are great subjects whether they're used to add information, or confuse things. But when you photograph shadows they always look great.