flat light

by julie posted October 31, 2007

It’s always when I see that golden glow and the long shadows that I get the urge to go out and shoot. Unfortunately, I usually see it as I’m driving to or from work… The reality is that I can’t always work my photography around the light, it’s more often at the mercy of life’s more mundane circumstances – or my lack oof inclination to leave the house before sunrise.

I do tend to get excited when I’m heading out with the camera and there’s some nice bright sunshine because it makes things glow, and a blue sky is a much better backdrop generally than a featureless grey one. It also gives nice strong shadows which can be a subject in themselves – emphasising shapes and highlighting textures.

So, the last time I was down in my favourite little spot at Glendalough with the silver birch trees, I was amazed to find myself inspired by the flat and yet pervasive light created by the sheer, even cloud cover of the day. It was as if something had switched on inside me, and I was able to see possibilities beyond the photos I’d been trying to take there, before. All of a sudden I was making my own pictures, and not trying to recreate something I’d seen somewhere else. What a liberation!

last colour

Who knows if what I came home with was truly original. What I do know is that it is true to myself, and not an attempt to prove my worth by recreating something I’ve admired by someone else. There’s a real resonance with the images from that little session, and I think that’s why.

Funnily enough, when I look through my archives I do notice that the favourites aren’t as much as I would have expected of those bright sunshine/magic light/long shadows type. Without really noticing, I have actually been shooting quite happily in flat light for some time now. And they seem to be the ones that put across the true character of the atmosphere on the day – the heavy dampness, the chill of winter around the corner, the subdued colours and falling leaves. They seem to mostly occur in Autumn too, funnily enough :)

Out of sheer coincidence, or maybe even something more – at the weekend I was oohing and aahing over the photography in Jamie Oliver’s new book. Absolutely gorgeous, it gives an almost multi-sensory reaction with the earthy colours of vegetables, wood and stone and that light I’ve just been going on about is used to it’s fullest advantage. It’s printed beautifully on matte, slightly rough paper which probably adds to the experience as well. Who would have thought a recipe book could be so enjoyable to a non-cook!

4 Responses to flat light

  1. Julie, this is a lovely shot. It’s good to hear that you are enjoying different types of lights, or should I say, allowing yourself to enjoy them. I’m looking forward to seeing more of your ‘flat’ light, which doesn’t look all that flat to me! :-)

  2. This is a *gorgeous* shot. It has light, poetic, feel to it, yet is crisp and tack-sharp. A paradox worthy of fine-art. Reminds me a bit of one Ansel’s Aspen photos (http://artfiles.art.com/images/-/Ansel-Adams/Aspens-Northern-New-Mexico-1958-Pre-made-Frame-C11670751.jpeg), and that is high praise. Truly wonderful image.

  3. flat is the new saturated : )

  4. Hey! Where’d you go? Long time, no see! :-)

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