Part 4

Exercise 4.2

Moving Light

The word Photography comes from the Greek words phos (meaning light) and graphie (meaning writing), so it is no surprise that light is an essential element in photography. Photographers vary in their preference for the time of day and the type of light in which they take their photographs.

The Golden Hour: this refers to the hours just after sunrise and just before sunset, when a golden glow often floods across the landscape and shadows are longer than during the day when the sun is overhead.  Many photographers prefer these times of day.  Sally Mann preferred the afternoon/evening lighting as can be seen in her landscapes.  Below is one of her landscapes showing the long soft shadows.

Deep South, untitled. © Sally Mann 1998


Other photographers prefer the mid-day light where the shadows are shorter or non-existent.  Atget, in his early career, preferred the mid-day light as he felt it would give the images more clarity.

Eugene Atget


In the 1920s Imogen Cunningham had developed a reputation for creating portraits in the soft-focus pictorial style.  She then went on to explored the patterns and shadows created when photographing plants.  Instead of the soft-focus images of the portraits, she created sharp focus images in black and white.  The time of day was less relevant than a strong natural light.  Below is an example of her work.

Imogen Cunningham
Imogen Cunningham circa 1920



Moving Shadows

We were moored up on our narrowboat at Cropredy, north of Banbury on the Oxford Canal in open countryside, so on a bright day I put a small plant on the roof of my boat and photographed it at intervals during the day. I would have liked to set up my camera on a tripod and used the remote shutter to take a series of shots, but as we were moored on a towpath, I couldn’t leave the camera out on its own all day!

I set the camera with a wide aperture so that the background fields would be blurred, and just the plant in focus. In each case the ISO was set to 200. In the distance of each image there is a white van, blurred, and incidental to the photograph. However, I actually found this useful to compose the image each time it took a photograph, to maintain consistency of view.

Initially there was some cloud during the morning, but at mid day the cloud had dispersed leaving a vivid blue sky, only to return during the afternoon. The last photograph was taken at 16.41, and shortly after rain clouds moved in making further photography for this exercise impossible.



Image 1, taken at 6.20.  The roof of the boat (actually cream coloured) looks grey. No definite shadow can be seen around the plant because the sun is rising behind a tall hedge and only the tips of the leaves have any light on them. However, across the field a line of sunshine can be seen as the sun starts to rise above the hedge.


Image 2, taken at 7.36. The plant is still in the shade of the hedge, but the as the sun is rising higher in the sky, the shadows are moving across the fields opposite. There is a slight reflection on the roof of the boat, and dappled patches have now started to appear as the sun shines through the top of the hedge.
Image 3, taken at 10.29. Here the sun has almost risen above the hedge, areas of the boat roof are now in sunshine and the fields opposite are in full sun. The sky is still slightly hazy, but not enough to prevent the appearance of clear shadows. A small shadow has started to appear to the right of the plant pot although the plant itself is still in shadow.
Image 4, taken at 12.04. The sun is now overhead, and a clear, but foreshortened, shadow can be seen to the right of the plant, with the plant itself in full sun. The sky is no longer hazy, and is now a deep blue, and the cream roof of the boat is close to its actual colour.
Image 5, taken at 13.09. The fields opposite have changed from a bright golden colour to a deeper green and the sky is still a bright blue. The shadow cast by the plant is longer, and at a different angle from the previous image.
Image 6, taken at 13.55. The shadow has moved very little since the previous photograph was taken, but the sky is less blue.
Image 7, taken at 15.09 The shadow has lengthened and started to move around the plant.
Image 8, taken at 16.41. The sun had started to go down and the shadow had lengthened further. I had to zoom out to be able to include the shadow, so other items on the roof of the boat have appeared. This was the last photograph I took on that day because rainclouds moved in and shadows were no longer visible.


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