Monday, 24 October 2011

Project 13 : the day

We all know that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Each day throughout the year where the sun rises and where it sets is slightly different and the height it rises to at midday varies as well. In there are only two days a year that are similar, March 21 and September 21. The longest day is June 21 and the shortest December 21.So at any particular day, as photographers we have to deal with our outside light source as variable and make the most of it,mainly by planning ahead.

In a recent post here I described some software that will calculate sunrise / sunset times and positions for any location on the planet.This may seem a bit over the top but for planning I think it is worth considering especially  if precise work is required, such as the sun rising behind a glass building or setting across a lake with a reflection. Another important note to take with you when out in mountainous areas is that the early and late sun will be hidden if you are in a valley that is aligned north south. Much better to be in an east west valley, where the early and late sun will be visible. The sunrise, sunset and twilight parts of the day are often referred to as The Golden Hour because of the nature of the light, its colour and the modelling effect it has on the features within the landscape. Long shadows, warmer tones are at their simplest more interesting than high bland mid day sun. Suffice to say that map reading, compass and watch skills are part of the landscape photographers kit if control is required rather than random stumbling onto the right situation.

The course notes ask us to spend a whole day at a location with some terrain and photograph the difference in light as it occurs. If one were to photograph a flat field during the day there would be no significant change, other than maybe the colour temperature being warmer in the morning and evening, with the midday light being blue maybe around 5600K. The purpose of the exercise is to notice and comment upon the changes we see during the day.

During a visit to The Lake District (well if I need contours and relief then here is about as good as it gets) I shot a simply sequence from 0500 through to 2000 of a fell side near the village of Threlkeld. I did not spend all day on this but did try and space out the shots and while maybe predictable the effects are noticeable, not only in shadow and shape, but also in the colour temperature. The photographs below are unprocessed images to allow full demonstration of the natural light and its colour.

 05:00 hrs
At 0500 hrs the shadows are long and the light is quite warm. The lit area to the left shows good detail due to the low angle of the sun and the warm light enriches the colour. The tree to the left is almost back lit and is partially silhouette. 

09:00 hrs 

At 0900 hrs light has become cooler and more uniform. The tree is now lit and provides more interest than before. The area of hill side to the left is now less interesting due to the sun being low and filling the shadows. The overall light is uniform and not that interesting.

14:00 hrs 

By 1400 hrs the sun is just past it highest point in the sky. The rocky area on the left hand side now has shadows due to it being on a slope of approximately 45 degrees and providing a good angle for the high light.

17:00 hrs 

At 1700hrs the sun provides oblique illuminate to the left hand side slope. The detail here with two distinct ridges is pronounced and has not been visible before.The tree becomes the dominant feature and the distant area in shadow less interesting.

20:00 hrs 

By late evening the sun has set and the entire area is in a flat light.
The light during the day had changed this somewhat unremarkable small vista pretty much as one would expect. The morning light (0500) in this instance gave the richer tone but suffered from the large shadow area and may have improved at around 0600 or slightly later. The 0500 image can be improved by some local adjustment.

05:00 with PP

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