By MICHAEL PERKINS
THE PHOTOGRAPHIC COMMANDMENT TO ALWAYS SHOOT IN BRIGHT LIGHT MAY NOT BE THE IRONCLAD RULE IT ONCE WAS (such are the advances of technology), but many generations were taught the habit as a “Photo 101” default. Especially back in the days of slower film emulsions, we were always told that brighter is better, with the more detailed how-to manuals explaining how to compensate for cloudy or overcast days. One of the reasons this “well, duh” rule made sense is how sunlight affects color.
As a consequence, light is always best regarded as a temporary, precious thing. There is only so much of it, and you’d better shoot while the shooting is good, and so forth. But just as temporary as the ways light shape color is how the changing state of things themselves can influence it. Like light itself, the condition of your subject will dictate what kind of color can be captured from it.
Take as an example the unfinished high-rise building seen here. The intensity of the sunlight affording us the ability to look clear through the empty structure, from one side to the other, is but one consideration in making this picture. Also to be factored in is how the lack of internal decor and furnishing will flavor the primarily bluish translucency of the tower. The exact same building shot three months later, in exactly the same light, but filled with desks and wall hangings, flesh tones, and a symphony of new shadows, will produce vastly different results, simply because the color relationships that the light illuminates in this shot will have been altered.
So, in addition to how much light we need, and what type of light we prefer it to be, we have to evaluate the things we are shooting and how their constituent colors play upon each other. With some subjects, a great seasonal or temporal shift will occur if we wait minutes, days, or months to make our attempts. Which goes back to the inherent complexity of making photographs, recognizing that there is no single way to “capture” or “fix” a thing in time. Whose time? Which reality? Which version of the truth?