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.
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.
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.
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.