Extraordinary Light in Ordinary Locations
We all love those portrait sessions of sunsets in lovely fields of long grass, or sunrise at the beach. However, I am not one of those lucky ones that has this at their backdoor. I am in the city, and have a backyard in the suburbs. However, the really cool thing about light is that it doesn’t limit itself to fields, and beaches. It shines everywhere. I know that I am stating the obvious, but the trick is to see the extraordinary light in ordinary locations. It is there. You just need to open your eyes to see what is in front of you.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” Elliot Erwitt.
This is my backyard, and I admit it is nothing special.
However, I have observed that the light in my backyard is just delicious at the end of the day.
It is not at sunset, but that 30-45 minutes before sunset at the beginning of the golden hour. It is filtered by the houses and trees, and I often see a gorgeous burst of sun flare. I first observed this light at the beginning of summer, and I have been watching from my kitchen window every night as I prepare dinner. I have run out a couple of times, but mostly I have been observing without the camera. Yes, no camera. I wanted to use my eyes and watch the sunset, and see where the light falls. I think we sometimes jump in too quickly with a desire to catch that light in camera, and not see its true beauty.
I decided on capturing the light with a teepee session. I had planned to find a field or park, but after seeing this light I thought I should try the backyard first. I also thought about the type of images that I wanted to capture. I wanted to use the gorgeous light to backlight my subjects. I wanted haze and sun flare. So I placed the teepee with the sun shining behind the teepee, and with me shooting into the light. Knowing how you want your images to look is an important part of the process, and getting the look right in camera is so much easier than fixing it after the fact. Taking the time to think about the finished image is a visualisation process that many athletes use to see the finish line but one us creatives can sometimes forget about.
Take a stroll in your yard at different times during the day. For me, the best light is late afternoon. At another house we lived in, it was early afternoon, around 3pm. For you, it might be in the morning, or the middle of the day. Watch the light and where it falls, and see if there is a particular time of day where you can see that delicious light. Once you see it, observe it. See how long it lasts, and the shadows that fall. Think about where to place your subject and how you want the image to look. Then play…play to your hearts content.