Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Changing light on the landscape

If you have never taken time to study the changing light on the landscape I would like to encourage you to do so. Don't simply lift the camera to your eye, press the shutter button and walk away. If you haven't already previsualised the image you want then you should at least take the time to look at the possibilities presented by the changing conditions before moving on. It is all part of the critique process that you can undertake yourself both at the scene and later in post processing.

Take the situation I found myself in on a visit to Hawes in Wensleydale part of the beautiful and scenic Yorkshire Dales. The weather was very changeable with quickly moving clouds presenting lots of possibilities for an image.

In this first image the front barn, whilst still a dominant element in the image, is shown as part of an overall landscape and although picturesque I felt it lost much of its impact as the main focus of the scene. In addition, the light has also lit the top of the tree immediately behind the front barn and this detracts from the barn forming an untidy element to the barn itself.

The second image was taken only 30secs after the first shot.

Look how the barn in the far field is now only partly lit, with the light picking out both barns. This seems to give an added dimension to the image, showing more of the relationship of the main barn to its surroundings without losing its dominance in the scene. In addition the leading lines of the grass now have somewhere for the eyes to follow. Also the shadow has now obscured from the top of the tree immediately behind the front barn.

Now look at the final image and notice the difference to the first shot. Here the front barn is the dominant element in the image allowing the viewer to focus on the relationship between the barn and the mowed field without any conflicting elements. As Rick Sammon says "light illuminates, shadows define".

Which image do I prefer? Personally I prefer the second image but that is purely subjective and your choice may vary. The main thing to take from this series is not which is the better image, but rather how spending a little extra time at a scene can provide you with further opportunities to make an image. Don't miss them!
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