shadows

The Long Shadows of Autumn

Shadows of Autumn. Montjuic, Barcelona, 2017 (iPhone 6)
Shadows of Autumn. Montjuic, Barcelona, 2017 (iPhone 6)

 

Yes, fall has been felled. But, in my view that gives us outdoor photographers yet more opportunities to create. You really have to love the quality of light with the sun so much lower in the sky. (Well, for many of us–apologies to my Southern Hemisphere friends!)

And, the bonus: We don’t have to get up so early to be there and square with our tripods for sunrise!

Funky Long Shadows

Lately, the shadows seem to have seeped darkly over my inspiration and enthusiasm. It has been awhile since I have simply gone out and about with my camera just to have fun.

So–I thought to myself–maybe I could try to boot myself out of this funk by grabbing and embracing those shadows–both literally and figuratively!

Up here in the northern hemisphere, the days are now quite short, the sun stays low most of the day, and the shadows are long. Ah, yes, an opportunity!

At the mall yesterday, whilst awaiting my store-browsing spouse, I challenged myself with this: Within 30 minutes, create an 8-12 image portfolio of shadow pictures with my iPhone.

After capture, I transferred the files to my desktop and put them through Silver Efex Pro using the “Silhouette” preset as the principal effect (with some tweaks). I cropped a bit here and there as well.

Maybe I am starting to break out of my funk?

Here is the result (and Happy Turkey Day!):

Mall Shadows, #1. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #1. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #2. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #2. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #3. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #3. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #4. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #4. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #5. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #5. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #6. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #6. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #7. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #7. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #8. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #8. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

And the last two with the human figure included:

Mall Shadows, #9. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #9. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #10. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #10. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

Shadowy Photography

The Monday Photography Group, Shadows. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
The Monday Photography Group, Shadows. Boulder, Colorado, 2015

One reason I really enjoy winter outdoor photography is that the low sun angle really enhances the shadows, giving dimension to the landscape. The farther north the latitude, the better.

Sometimes it is fun to try capturing the shadows as a subject in and of itself–whilst attempting to avoid the cliché. Shadows, to me, imply the existence of a parallel world, often ignored, but filled with spirits, movement, and mood.

So, this was the plan yesterday, as we–our Monday afternoon youth photo group–sauntered around a few city blocks in Boulder making images. The theme o’ the day was shadows and squares/rectangles. My eye kept seeing mostly shadows, but an occasional square or rectangular shape did creep into the viewfinder now and then. My tool of choice was the iPhone.

The results? It will be interesting to see what the others came up with when we get together again next Monday–everyone “sees” things soooo differently, you know.

In the meantime, here is my short photo essay, “The Shadowy Other-World of Boulder, Colorado”…

Boulder Sidewalk. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Boulder Sidewalk. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Chicken, Tree Swing, and Fenced Man. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Chicken, Tree Swing, and Fenced Man. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Family with Baby Carriage. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Family with Baby Carriage. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
The Tree. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
The Tree. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
The Cyclist. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
The Cyclist. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Two Photographers and a Pole. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Two Photographers and a Pole. Boulder, Colorado, 2015

Is the subject important?

Is it possible to make a good image of anything as long as the light and the composition are both strong?

How about…toilets, maybe…or even turds in the toilet!…cigarette butts…a stick…a wad of chewed chewing gum…a green pepper…a wall…and maybe even some concrete steps?

Steps and Shadows. Barcelona, 2014
Steps and Shadows. Barcelona, 2014

Going light

Dove and Three Windows #3. Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (with Nikon D90)
Dove and Three Windows #3. Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (with Nikon D90)

Much of the time, in Barcelona, I was schlepping around my fairly brick-like D800, three lenses, and a tripod–especially on the morning sunrise shoots. That is a hunk of weight even though my Think Tank waist bag does a journeyperson’s job handling it all. Once I was at work making pictures I loved having all that capability with me, but the Sherpa work to get to the summit I didn’t enjoy.

Now that my D800 is on its way back to Nikon for repairs, I get to downsize and in some ways it is a huge relief. I am now walking around with my old, 12mp, Nikon D90 and a 35mm f/1.8 fixed lens (50mm equivalent). What a massive difference–the thing feels like a toy!–and I am never wasting brain cells on focal length decisions. As many other photographers have said, simplicity like this can be very liberating and force you to think more about “seeing”, which is what it’s all about anyway (along with the hokey-pokey).

It’s nice to know that one of the big trends in camera technology today is packing ever more capability into ever smaller packages. One interesting example is the new Sony A7R with 36 megapixels in a box WAY smaller than a D800. My post-D800 life (in a few years) will likely include one of these new, lighter wonder machines (54 megapixels, ISO 12,800 in an iPhone-sized body? Maybe!).

Anyway, back to the smaller, lighter, older, and (as some would say) nearly worthless D90. Here are a few examples of what can happen in 15 minutes with this “outdated” photo tool at the local mall… the late afternoon winter shadows got me thinking about doing this short essay:

Mall Shadows #3. 29th Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Mall Shadows #3. 29th Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Mall Shadows #4. 29th Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Mall Shadows #4. 29th Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Mall Shadows #6. 29th Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Mall Shadows #6. 29th Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, 2014

Human Figure and Gesture

The human figure and gestures with the hands can be powerful storytelling or mood-creating symbols. In shadow form, they can add an additional layer of mystery. Look for ways to do this, though, that are a bit different than the usual cliché of the simple photographer’s shadow. Try to incorporate a unique composition or unusual elements.

What mood does this image suggest to you?

Lurking. Manitou Springs, Colorado, 2013
Lurking. Manitou Springs, Colorado, 2013

 

Or this one….?

Conversation and Gesture. Manitou Springs, Colorado, 2013
Conversation and Gesture. Manitou Springs, Colorado, 2013