Tips & Ideas:

Dancing in the Dark with Shadow Photography

Photography is Shadow Photography

Shadow Photography: Golf CourseFor most of us, photography is about getting the right light. Once we do get it, a lot of us spend the rest of our time shaping and crafting that light. It wasn’t until recently though that I accepted  a critically important distinction, for myself: Photography is not about light or even the right light to me. It’s about shadow, and gradients of shadow.

Photography is not about light or even the right light to me. It’s about shadow, and gradients of shadow.

Creating Depth with Shadow vs. Aperture

Shadow Photograhy: Light and ShadowAn image is also defined through its depth of field via the camera’s aperture setting that was used in capturing it. Depth of field is how blurry or sharp an object in the foreground is compared to its background. Aperture is an adjustable hole in the lens between the outside world and your camera’s sensor and controls depth of field. More info on it here, but basically a wide aperture (small f number) creates shallow depth of field, and a narrow aperture (large f number) creates deep depth of field, with results in between that vary according to how wide or narrow the aperture is set. Alternatively what I’m referring to with shadows creates a deeper sense of impact, in my opinion. Take the image above; Even a wide open aperture and a long focal length lens at say 400mm wouldn’t give the depth of field this paramotor would need to stand out from the background; only its shadow allows it to do this.

Alternatively what I’m referring to with shadows creates a deeper sense of impact, in my opinion…

Tips on Photographing Friends

This brings me to the advice I want to give you when shooting friends: Shoot from above and behind and make sure they are  “down-sun.” An easy way to decide which way you’re friend will need to be in relation to the sun is to maneuver so as to put the sun at your 9 ,6, or 3 o’clock position. This will put your friend “down-sun.”

Having Fun with Your Own Shadows

Shadow Photography: CreekI’ve often noticed while out flying that my shadows offer a lot of entertainment. If you’ve ever chased your shadow from a few feet off the ground or put it in a strategic spot, you know what I mean. One of my classic “signatures” while flying is to get shots of my shadow in the foreground (another is to capture my feet crossed at the base of the image). Included elements like these immediately define an image as having been captured from an incredibly special machine. Shadow Photography: Dry Creek

Important Points to Remember

The first key to doing this right is to fly on a sunny day – The brighter the better, just make sure you do it at a time when the thermals aren’t popping off, which is usually between 10 am and 6 pm in most places during the summer. Secondly, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t use a wide-angle lens which is anything with a focal length less than 35mm (full frame corrected). The reasoning behind this is simple: Wide angle lenses fool us into believing we’re farther away from objects then we really are. Which brings me to my last points: Don’t get close to your friends with a camera in front of your face and be extremely careful when shooting close to the ground. Abide by these safe practices no matter what lens you’re using (but especially a wide-angle lens), because when the camera is in front of your face there may as well be a mask over your head. Shadow Photography: Creek Again

In Closing

There’s something both ominous and natural about capturing your own shadow in an image. Additionally you’ve provided the viewer with an image that’s truly unique, especially if they’re someone who’s never heard of paragliding before. Lastly if you’re into “signing” your imagery in unique ways, nothing beats it 🙂