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Take the Sunglasses Off


Lovely hot Wednesday in August. Neither my wife nor I had clients to see. No projects due. Beach day! One of the joys of working for yourself is taking advantage of those moments cuz you’re likely going to be working all day Saturday or Sunday or… but that’s not why I’m here today.

On the drive home from the beach I was enjoying the view as the sunlight started to warm while starting to cast some longer shadows. The light was starting to evolve into that sweet light.

Suddenly, I realized I wasn’t really seeing it! Why not? I had my sunglasses on. Not only do they darken the scene, they typically alter the colour somewhat. My latest hold a slight blue cast. My last pair had a warm tone added to them. Romantic but not so good for photography.

I find it imperative to take the sunglasses off to really see the light no matter the time of day. They don’t have to stay off. They are good protection from harmful uv rays. If I’m considering a photo, for me to really see the image,  to consider where I might want to take it in post-production I have to see the ‘real’ quality of the light.

The colour of it to the crispness of it. How soft are the shadows? How contrasty is the overall feel of the light. The quality of light shifts all day long and from month to month. I used to be a tad fanatical about only photographing at certain times of the day. Working with clients has forced me to photograph in all kinds of challenging lighting situations and make them work.

When I photographed weddings, the photography was usually when the light was THE most miserable for an angelic bride. So, we’d move into open shade. I’ve had to photograph cars, limos, executives at a given time regardless of what the light looked like. We can’t muck around with the client’s business needs and we can’t necessarily get into the shade with a tractor trailer. What I’ve discovered is we can create some fantastic photographic results under all kinds of lighting especially with the tools we have available in Capture One and Photoshop.

This has led me to experiment under less than ideal conditions which makes for some very compelling results that wouldn’t have been possible in film days or even early digital photography. Don’t get me wrong. Often a building or a landscape or a portrait can only be done when the light is its very best for that subject. We have to plan those shots accordingly.

All I’m suggesting is don’t give up on the harsh light of high noon. Look at it. Watch it tomorrow and see what you can make with it. It’s a challenge worth embracing.

Just take those sunglasses off and watch what the light is doing the whole day long.

An aside: A memory from when I was studying photography at Ryerson. A fourth-year student presented a body of work shot in laneways in Toronto on colour film at night. Super long exposures making images brighter than we saw with our naked eye. They were fascinating by revealing colour and details we normally didn’t see. It’s the same idea. Taking a situation and looking at it from way over on the right instead of from where we normally look, see and do things.

So, try something new. Head out into those unchartered waters. You just never know what you’re going to see and learn about photography.


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