light # 5 – light through the day


“You will need a sunny day for this exercise, or else sun at different times on differentdays. You are going to photograph one scene from dawn to dusk. The number of pictures you take will depend on the time of year, but get at least one per hour, and more at the end of the day when the light is changing faster. Find a landscape location with a fairly definite subject that will catch the sunlight even when the sun is close to the horizon. It needs to offer a good, clear view that is lit throughout the day – containing an isolated building, perhaps, but convenient to reach, as you will need to keep going back to exactly the same spot. Try and keep the composition exactly the same for all the photographs; either remember which parts of the scene touch obvious points in the viewfinder (such as the corners or any markings on the screen) or draw a little sketch. Keep a note of the exposure for each photograph”

– AOP Coursebook.

I took these pictures over the course of three days, way back in November. I’d set my tripod up, leaning into the velux window in the attic, looking out from my work-room (it’s where I’m sitting typing now) to the northeast. The view was open to the south so the light would pass over the view revealing detail and creating shifting shadows for the whole of the period of daylight.

In November, the days aren’t so long that I had to get up disgustingly early to take the pre-sunrise shot, but the sun still swung round through approximately 180° and was high enough in the sky at noon to give even light with a minimum of short shadows.

The things I think are significant here are:

  • The way the colour temperature of the light changes through the day. It starts off with the blue-ish pre dawn light changing to the yellowy orange of dawn, This then cools down (or rather heats up in terms of K) to the white light in the 12.00 and 13.00 pictures. After that, as the sun sinks the light becomes progressively more orange again until the sun dips behind the row of houses I’m in and the prevailing light becomes blue again.
  • The way the light models the buildings differently as the sun swings round. The way light builds up and then spills over onto the roof directly ahead of the window; the way the drainpipe shadow thins and moves closer to the pipe itself; the way the chimneys of my street sweep up the wall in front of the camera. And also the contrast with midday when the whole scene seems evenly lit with little shadow.

As with other exercises during the course where something is worked through systematically, while I may have known what was going to happen, it was very worthwhile to actually follow this knowledge through and to turn it into a series of pictures.

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