Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Fall begins today and as if on cue the light is beginning to relax. Yesterday I was out photographing in the morning and for the first time in a while I found the shadows enjoyable. All summer the light had been miserable, bright and glaring and harsh, so I had been limiting my shooting to certain hours early in the morning or late afternoon, both hurried times. But in fall and winter the sun begins to hug the horizon and it does my work for me. By December I'll be able to go out and shoot at noon, provided it's not raining.

I love that light but I can't help wondering if that's just conditioning. Is it because I've been trained to think that dramatic shadows look photographic? Maybe if everyone photographed at noon that would seem like the magic hour instead?

So I was out shooting yesterday in the nice morning light and a man approached. Tattoos on his neck, hat with stiff brim, pants hanging around his crotch, some sort of gangbanger by the looks of him. Gloves on both hands, I have no idea what that's about.

Without ever looking me in the eye he gave me the whole business. Who was I? What was I doing? Why was I taking photos of that car? Was I aware there'd been burglaries around here? How come he'd never seen me around before? Coolly and calmly I tried to defuse him. Then he asked what's in the bag so I opened my backpack and showed him my map and camera and film and assured him they belonged to me, that I didn't work for the cops, that I was on his side, and by the way could I take his portrait? He seemed preoccupied and didn't answer. By then an older man had come along and tattoo-neck gave him the staredown as he walked down a driveway and into what presumably was his house. I asked again, can I take your portrait? No answer. He just kept scouting the street while wearing his weird black gloves. He would've made a fantastic portrait but oh well. I figured screw it and kept walking.

A little while later I did get a portrait. I met a young man on an overpass who'd just stolen a large metal foodrack from 7-11. It had been a Dorito display. He'd swiped the chips onto the floor, picked up the rack and walked out, and now he had it strapped across his back with some bungies. I asked why he hadn't been arrested but he was too drunk to answer. This was at 9 am. He said he was worth $3 million and had four kids and none of it mattered because he had to do his art and he needed the rack to dry ceramics on. He looked like he might jump at any point onto the freeway below. I'd been trained to think the light was perfect so I shot him, and that became the last photo of the summer.


Max Herrgaard said...

Is it often this dramatic when you are out photographing?

Blake Andrews said...

Only the outings that I plan to write about later

jacques philippe said...

Oddly I like the harsh light of noon. And I am not a very fan of the oblique light that is so popular amongst photographer. I mean when I do photographs myself. Most of the pics I do are shot between 10am and 2pm.

Also to mention that yesterday I was talked and asked with the same sort of suspicion when I did a photograph of a backyard - and by the way (but this is another topic) I have just read a story in the french news about a guy who got beaten and insulted a pedophile by the parents of kids he had photographed. He even did prints of the photo and give them but was thanked in a very rude way for that -

Unknown said...

Yes, it is cliche to say that twilight light is best. However, don't let that limit you. There are great shots to be had all day long. I take mid day to be a challenge to overcome. With a little creativity, all light is good light. If you check out my blog ( you will see a good mix of "prime" light and working with what the sun gives.

chuckp said...

I want to see that portrait. I like the angled light, but for years it seemed as if the only time I could ever take photographs was at mid-day during "lunch". I got so used to that kind of light that I've found it kind of hard to figure out what to do with all that dramatic morning and later afternoon stuff.