What better way to capture “wear your stilts to work” day?
Regardless of the medium (film, digital, black and white, color), the most intriguing part of photography is light. With that, of course, comes shadow. For most of my landscape photography, I prefer no shadows at all. An overcast sky is like nature’s softbox, providing an evenly lit world where nothing hides under shadow and all can be properly exposed. Waterfalls can be captured with slow shutter speeds to make them look silky, rather than choppy, almost as if they’re painted.
Contrary to what some believe, colors typically come out richer when there’s no bright sunlight. This is due to film’s and digital sensors’ nearly exponential inferiority to the human eye at detecting the varying levels of light in a scene. Effectively, you have a better chance at capturing exactly what you saw in overcast conditions than on a sunny day.
A scene I shot several years ago stands out as an exception. It shows, in fact, when cameras’ tendency to increase contrast can enhance a photo.
First, we see a man holding his toddler. He wants to get from point A to point B, and I’m not the only one contemplating his next move. The sun and shadows work together to emphasize what’s coming.
Next, he takes action, but from this distance it isn’t quite clear exactly what’s happening.
Here, in a cropped and enlarged version, it becomes clear that he implicitly trusts the child not to toddle right off that cliff.
Somehow the darkness below the little girl makes this all seem more ominous than it probably is. At least, I hope it does. If not, this guy certainly ruins his chance for parent of the year.
I went there hoping for the perfect conditions to capture a scenic waterfall. Instead I caught a moment that, regardless of its outcome, promised to make a lasting impression on parent and child. Nature’s lighting made up my mind for me.
[I snapped these pics at the base of Cedar Falls on Petit Jean Mountain (pronounced “petty gene” by the locals), in my home state of Arkansas. It’s part of the Ouachita Mountains (say it “wahshitah”), a very old and scenic range that extends from southeastern Oklahoma to west central Arkansas.]