More Thoughts On Window Light

Yes - another post on window light. Can't help it. I've got window light on the brain sorting out various options to get through the important concepts in choosing how to use any particular environment that happens to have a window. I've also mentioned that at this time of year I tend to review what the heck I did this year and compare it to my list of stuff to get done.

Typically depressing as I never get done the things I really want to get done. Somehow reality steps in and pushes all of the optional things back. A particular thing I am extremely guilty of is shooting images and then never ever doing anything with them. Up to the point where I have a bunch of crap that I literally have never looked at before. Oh I dutifully import them and back them up. Usually while doing something else and not really paying attention. Is this normal? Does anyone else bother to take pictures and then not even look at them? Case in point. A random image at the top I've never seen before. Well obviously I saw it when I made it. I may have even seen it on my MacBook Air when originally imported from a card on location. Other than that, this is the first time - this Sunday morning. It's in a pile of a ga-gillion other images I shot and never bothered with.

I shot this while wrapping up or attempting to wrap up a couple of images I needed for the Window Light Field Guide. This setup was not what I needed to shoot or even close. I shot it anyway because I was playing. I think I may have published a black and white version of one image from this set - a full length kind of thing - on the fly immediately after I shot it but never touched any others.

I made 23 images with this treatment in this spot including my first exposure test. They happened to catch my eye as I was blasting through stuff I shot this year. I do flag things I like when I am doing this year-in-review kind of thing. Guess how many I liked out of 23? Twenty. Yep 20. I don't know which ones I like best yet - that will take a more careful look but twenty neglected RAW files I haven't looked at that I actually like? I'm not super surprised as this happens a lot when I actually go back and look at images I've made. Another reason I force myself to do it at the end of every year.

This is a window light image - completely atypical but it is. You might consider it a sun-lit image. It's certainly that as well. I didn't end up using this or anything like it for the eBook but I like it better than anything else I did end up using for sure. I like this set better as well as a half dozen other sets I shot that day better than anything I did use. Too bad those had nothing to do with the basic points I was trying to illustrate effectively. Actually there are a million things I like about this image - most of which are things not to do. I'll go through just a couple of those million things - take them for what they are worth - heck try them sometime. Make them work for you if you want. Do what you are supposed to do as well in case that works better for a particular shot.

  • I like that I was using a lens that was too wide for framing this tight on a face. I like that it doesn't flatten Mary's face and instead exaggerates perspective a tiny bit at this super-close distance. I used an 85mm - yes that's "supposed to be" a portrait lens. It's not your go-to headshot lens. That's more like a 200mm. At least if you want freedom to frame any way you want and orient the subject's head any different way without paying attention to things that might turn out to be objectionable.
  • I like that I abused the living crap out of the sensor and blasted every single pixel in the "highlights" into an alternate universe instead of evening it all out with some "fill-flash" so I would have detail everywhere that has nothing to do with this picture.
  • I like that I shot it below eye-level.
  • I like that it's more than a bit flare-y. All lenses will have reduced contrast with this differential of light entering the lens directly vs the subject that's in virtual darkness at this exposure level. Every single one. Sometimes that's actually an aesthetic to be used - even with out the blatant internal reflection ghosting.
  • I like that I choose to shoot when Mary's mouth wasn't all the way closed and it's not perfectly symmetrical or even trying to be.
  • I like that I let some of the back light spill onto the front of her chest and blow out. If I didn't there wouldn't be that reflection on her jaw and chin providing the wonderful separation from her neck.

You may dislike everything I like about the shot. Maybe not. The point here is choices and they are choices that you as a photographer can make. Choices in terms of this image are almost completely opposite in every dimension from the canonical "should do/should not do" written in stone by the ancient gods of photography. Not on purpose as some idiotic rule-violation exercise but to produce the image that I wanted for this subject and this scene. Even the scene choice is suspect. The room behind Mary has windows with full sun streaming in illuminating every single thing you can see in the background. She's standing in a doorway half in, half out of a completely dark room with no windows and no sun reflecting off anything.

Would a better choice have been to find a spot where the sun was backlighting her and smashing into a convenient white surface in-front of her? Possibly - I did that as well in a different spot while I was waiting for the sun to go away. Are the images completely different? Absolutely. The point is that the art part of this thing is all in the choices and those choices are definitely not all about somehow overcoming what could be considered deficiencies with capture technology and definitely not overcoming all of them simultaneously for every scene and every subject.

It just so happens that the Window Light mini-workshop is all about choices. Well at least the broad brush kind of choices in any given location that happens to have a window or two. As I mentioned before my anxiety of this first dry run is that two hours is not nearly long enough to explore all of the those choices nor to refine any of them. Doing so takes a bit longer. Maybe I will do a get together that is more intensive as well. We'll see.


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