HIGH CON­TRAST MEANS GRAPHIC

At the other ex­treme from over­cast light, flat, hard sun­light cre­ates strong shapes for more geo­met­ric com­po­si­tions

NPhoto - - Niko Pedia -

A high, pierc­ing sun flouts all the rules of con­ven­tional ‘nice’ light­ing, and sends many pho­tog­ra­phers run­ning for cover, leav­ing only mad dogs and English­men stand­ing around in it. And yet, it does one thing ex­tremely well from a pho­to­graphic point of view – it casts strong, hard-edged shad­ows, and these can be very use­ful for the kind of com­po­si­tion that plays with graphic and geo­met­ric shapes.

Pierc­ingly sunny con­di­tions in­volve ex­tremely clear air and a high sun, so it’s not all that com­mon in the Bri­tish Isles. The trop­ics, how­ever, have a much higher sun dur­ing the day, while high moun­tain­ous re­gions have thin­ner, clearer air (see main im­age, left).

There are a few pre­cau­tions to take. One is to ex­pose (and process) for the lit ar­eas and keep those shad­ows al­most black so that they register as pure shapes. Open­ing up the ex­po­sure runs the risk of a washed-out light (though ad­mit­tedly there’s noth­ing to say that this it­self can’t work as a kind of style). The other is to choose your sub­ject so that you’re work­ing with a strong dis­tinc­tive shape or out­line. An­gu­lar sub­jects gen­er­ally work best.

Mex­i­can ar­chi­tect Ri­cardo Le­goretta de­signed this house in Los An­ge­les to take

ad­van­tage of the dra­matic di­ag­o­nal shad­ows cre­ated by hard Cal­i­for­nian light

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