High noon summer sun is often a portrait photographer’s nightmare who will battle high contrast situations, but for some of us who do monochrome and are after high contrast, the chase begins in earnest. After all, they call it black and white for a reason.
There are many types of shadows, besides the obvious ones caused by the sun, which we see every day, cast by buildings and various objects. There could be others, such as pattern shadows, shapes, and limitless variations of artistically created shadows. It all boils down to a light source, obstacle and a position.
Unlike the regular shadows from buildings, which are slow-moving, there are some, where the angle of the obstacle towards the light source and the background where the light hits can be so aggressive that the shadows not only create sometimes unexpected patterns, but can be also very fast moving (i.e. their movement can be actually seen by a naked eye in real time).
I took this picture in an alley just a block east off State St on Madison, the sun was in a perfect position and the lifted fire escape staircase was throwing quite eye-catching shadows. The closer the sun moved towards the wall, the faster the shadows moved across the weathered brick. With shadows where the light source is moving (i.e. sun), the timing and the position are an absolute key. In photographer’s parlance, timing of course translates to patience where we work hard to get it right and fail miserably, until that time comes.
The difference between my work and someone else’s pictures, which I judge as being better than mine, is in my view the fact that the other person had the courage to go and fail many more times than I did. I never really spent time to calculate how many of my shots are throwaways (not that it matters), but I seriously doubt my retention rate would be above 1%, meaning for every 1 picture I post on my blog, there were at least 99 pictures I did not feel were worthy of posting, printing, or sharing – I call those “learning lessons”, cull every single one of them, either delete or give one star out of five and always spend time finding at least one thing I could have done better. It may seem like a colossal waste of time, but doing this work is nearly as hard as going out shooting. I consider it a true self-study.