One of my favorite photographers, Chuck Kimmerle, wrote a nice blog post recently called “The Myth of ‘Good’ Light.” His basic point is that photographers are encouraged too much to photograph at times early or late in the day, because the quality of light at these times is presumed to be better than at other times of day. The better approach, however, is to be open to seeing the possibilities under any kind of lighting conditions, even those that are thought to be “bad” for photography. I couldn’t agree more.
It is true that the light early or late in the day can have a very nice quality, and so the advice of shooting then often is offered to novice photographers to try to help in producing pleasing photographs. As with much advice given about photography, however, it’s been blown way out of proportion. Just because this light can be nice, it seems to have become presumed that the light at other times of day is less suitable, or even unsuitable, for photography.
This simply isn’t true. The light at different times of day is just, well, different. Nothing more and nothing less. It’s a mediocre photographer indeed who is blind to photographic opportunities just because of the time of day.
Midday light, for example, commonly is thought to be harsh and one-dimensional. That’s a pretty narrow way to choose to see it, though. It’s equally valid to say that midday light produces strong, dark shadows, and can bring out texture on surfaces. These are both characteristics that are very useful building blocks for interesting images. The image in this post, “Lamp, Window, Buttress,” was photographed in the middle of a sunny Santa Fe afternoon, and I tried to use both of these elements to the advantage. Indeed, I don’t think this image would have been very interesting without them.
For some other great examples of wonderful photographs that wouldn’t have worked but for strong midday light, I refer you to Chuck’s post, along with the thought that great photographs can be made under any lighting conditions at any time of day.