Morning gory

The smell of morning dew. The crisp air on my face. The distant sound of birdsong echoing through the silence. I dream of England as I gaze at Harry Cory Wright’s timeless photographs of pastoral scenes bathed in the warm light of dawn.

The golden hour occurs a few moments after sunrise or before sunset.

Landscape photographers are early risers. They are attracted to the rising sun, with its golden-hour hues and texture-defining shadows. It’s a distinctive light, which radiates a comforting sense of well-being. And there’s more. A misty morning will imbue your pictures with atmosphere. This heightens depth, as far-off subjects fade away into the distance.

Oh, and one final thing. The light is always best just before the ‘official’ sunrise. So to make the most of your gift from the golden hour, arrive half an hour early. This means you’ll catch the whole show and have plenty of time to set up. What better way to start your day?


Shadowy stories

What moment has Harry Gruyaert captured here? In terms of action, we’re left to ponder the presence of a lone man and passing cyclist. Nothing remarkable about that. But when these figures are pictured navigating their way in and out of those long shadows, the street comer becomes pregnant with possibilities What does it all add up to? I’m not entirely sure.

I just know I love it.

Late afternoon light is beautiful but fleeting.

Wheh the sun is low in the sky. shadows grow like vines and surfaces once illuminated ebb into darkness. The strong directional light also means facades are either light or dark, making architecture look all the more angular, h’a a magical time, but shadows like these are always on the move until soon enough, they evaporate completely.

While Gruyaert’s image may seem timeless, the paralysis is deceptive. As all the elements were falling into place, his was would have been acutely heightened by t he knowledge that everything around him was shifting. So when shooting in such light, anticipate the moment and be ready and waiting.

Softly, softly

It’s as if that split arrow is the road’s only defence against the advancing desert. Inch by inch, year by year, the sands of time are determined to reclaim the landscape and erase man’s effort to tarmac the terrain.

In this photograph Philippe Chancel makes use of flat light to cast an air of subdued indifference over the situation. Without the dramatic contrast caused by bright highlights and dark shadows everything seems slower and more contemplative. Here, the light suggests the passive inevitability of time.

The flat light of an overcast day makes images feel ‘quieter’.

Blanket cloud acts like a giant sheet of diffuser as the intensity of the sun is spread out across the whole sky This evenness reduces contrast and makes exposure metering more straightforward, as you’re not contending with extremes of light and dark.

That said, an overcast sky is still surprisingly bright So if you want the sky to occupy more than half the frame, you may need to use Exposure Compensation (scroll towards the +) to avoid underexposing the landscape. This is especially true if the landscape is made up of dark features, like vegetation.

In the mix

In contrast to the previous example, here Joel Meyerowitz shoots at ground level. His photograph depicts New York as a confusion of people, signs and high-rise buildings. If there is a subject, it’s that fleeting exchange of goods in the foreground – theatre tickets perhaps?

When you are part of the scene, so is the viewer.

Meyerowitz’s style is unlike traditional street photography, which tends to home in on a singular subject. For him, people and place are inseparable, and here both elements share equal importance within the frame.

When photographing cities, the transient flow of people is as much a part of the environment as the more permanent features. So rather than pretend the people don’t exist, choose your spot carefully and make them an integral part of your composition.

Solid foundations

If the City of Angels did ever have any angels, then they are pictured here in Julius Shulman’s iconic photograph of Stahl House.

This is a photograph that captures a sense of place exquisitely. Illuminated against the night, the modernist architecture  elevates these women from the valley of broken dreams below. As they sit there, engaging in idle conversation, everything seems right with the world. Everything is at peace.

Let your eyes lead you to the right spot.

Shulman’s position draws out the lines in the scene, which  lead us into the image to create a kind of visual narrative. In  the foreground the lines of a sun lounger lead us up to the house. Even the placement of the cushion acts like a discreet pointed finger. Then the architecture guides us inwards to the women, before the canopy escorts us outwards again, along  the boulevards of Los Angeles, all the way to the horizon.

From the foreground to the background, always look for the leading lines. They can be subtle or overt, but without an underlying structure to your composition, the viewer  will be lost.