I don’t know about you but I love the four seasons. They each have their prime characteristics, but being a photographer the thing that means the most is the light. Summer light is so very different from winter or even fall, so the date on the calendar influences not only when I shoot but also what I shoot. The date also influences what I wear, what I carry and perhaps most importantly how I feel. I’ve been in the southern spaces for so long now I simply can’t handle any kind of real winter yet the light associated with winter is perhaps the best for my photographic style and application. Dark light, weak in its power yet angled like I want, is what I want more than anything else, but what I rarely find myself walking in. I actually dream about this light, especially when I wake up in Southern California to a seemingly endless supply of cloudless skies.
Southern California Summer
Most of time I’m in climates with hot light. Optimum only in the wee hours of morning and the last gasp of dusk. Summer light is often this way too. Harsh. Good before eight AM and then gone until the breeze brings in the first taste of sunset. Summer to me feels like color, so I shoot more color when the middle months apply. Often times my summer imagery itself is hot. Perhaps I overexpose my primary work, definitely my portraits, and I actually use the light to accentuate the garish nature of unbridled, midday sun. But winter is oh so different. Winter to me is about black and white, grain, contrast, darkness and mood, and I try to reflect that in the work. I want you, the viewer, to FEEL what it felt like when I made those pictures. I want your eyes to water in the wind and your lips to feel the chap of oncoming snow and night.
A few years ago I ventured to Paris to work on a project. I landed in the middle of nationwide strikes but also a freak cold snap that reduced the city to a mostly deserted, moody ghost town. Due to the strikes I found myself walking long distances at the mercy of the frigid temps. This reality had a dramatic impact on my work. I ONLY shot black and white. It felt right, and the leafless trees, strikes and somber skies SCREAMED for black and white. But not to be too harsh I decided to tone the images to add a slight amount of warmth back in. There isn’t really a right or wrong here people, only what you as the image maker wish to convey. On this trip, and at most points during winter, I feel like a black and white guy. Summer, well, bring back the color negative.
As photographers we ask a lot. We ask for attention, for appreciation and consideration, and to ask these things we need to use every tool at our disposal including the power of nature. So as we find ourselves angling toward the end of yet another winter, a scary thought, let’s think about angling towards a new take on early spring.
Why is it that empty chairs are just so interesting to look at? 🙂
PROOF of how cold it was. Nothing more. Chairs show us rest is around the corner.
Empty chairs… couldn’t help but think of the attacks and the Don McLean song.
The attacks are something people ask me about on nearly a daily basis. Last night happened again.
This is why you should stick around, Daniel; just keep writing and taking photographs. Longer essays are most welcome. I’ve often thought that your summer photographs are almost garish, and never associated this with the reality of southern U.S. light. I remember reading someone thinking similarly about David Hockney’s L.A. paintings, until he visited him at his home and found the colours to be true to life. I do especially like your b & w photographs.
This Spring will see me picking up a camera for the first time in quite a few months. I sold my Leica M stuff last year and bought a Leica T as I want to pare things down to the minimum. We didn’t get on. I’m determined not to buy a camera until a camera manufacturer makes one that I want, rather than what they want me to buy. I want a mirrorless camera with a great viewfinder – must be built-in. The new Fuji camera that will be announced next week should fit the bill as a carry-everywhere camera. A new beginning.
I feel the same. I don’t want to buy another camera, but know I will because of the serious limits of the one I’m currently using. That’s the life we have now. But, I have almost ZERO interest in the actual box, I just want something that works that doesn’t get in the way and gives me what I need.
One of my favorite things to read is a real working artist musing out loud on how it works and what they feel.
It’s different every time, the same guy can give you a different easy if you wait five minutes. But every time there’s something that rings true, something that helps me refocus on my own work.
Me too. I’m all over the place. But, I’m starting to realize it’s okay. Not much I can about it.
Almost no light at all with film turns out to be that which speaks best what I want to say. Quality, not quantity. As in so many things.
There is a magic time each day for that light. It’s sometimes only there for a second or two.