Writing about how lovely bright, beautiful light is in the middle of winter makes me feel a little absurd. Prague has cold, short, grey days this time of year and it is exactly for those reasons that I feel compelled to write about this topic.
It is calm Sunday afternoon and I am sitting down at my favorite café (cafebarplatyz.cz ) to write. The large window next to me reveals a flat cloudy sky that currently dumps rain down on the city, but not for long. Snow is on its way.
Soon the days will be unsaturated and bleak and I will crave the bright shining sun that I adore so much. When the light hides in these winter months, there is no volume, no natural enhancement for the world and the darkness makes not only my personality shift, but my work as well.
For decades I have dreamt of moving south but have only ever managed to move in an eastward direction. Circumstance has led me farther inland, further from the warmth of the sun and further from the sea. Bern, Zurich, Prague. What’s next? Oulu (have been there once for a film score concert conducted by Jerry Goldsmith)
Why does the lack of sun seems to be weighting on my mind so heavily, you may be wondering. Well, finally I am admitting to myself that natural sunshine is an essential ingredient to my personality, creativity, simply put…my overall wellbeing. I suppose my wife should be the one telling this story.
Shining It Down and Letting It In
As a working photographer, I observe and manipulate light far more than the average Joe. I think the only person who works with light as much as a photographer would maybe be God. He was the guy who said, “let there be light”, right? Either way, the creator role, whether it is the universe or just a few square meters, is a powerful and exciting one. Not only do I manipulate light, it affects me as well. It is a two way street and I think I have underestimated the influence of the sun for too long. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
Light brings forth life—not just for plants but for me as well. I am not even alone in this sun worship. Centuries of past cultures have built temples, danced and sang songs all in celebration of the magnificent sun. It would really only make sense then that inspiring sun assists me in creating ideas for shoots. Winter saps the energy out of me. When it is cold and dark out I find that it takes me a longer period of ramp-up time to develop concepts for my own projects. There is something about the warm weather and the bright sunshine that works like a muse to me, constantly inspiring me to do new, innovative project. In winter, it does not surge out of me easily as it does when the sun is shining. On the plus side, client shoots are welcomed during this time with open arms. Since they require me to quickly shift into work mode, I find myself enjoying my productivity level during them greatly.
There is another, more ambiguous effect that sunlight has on my photography. The absence of that flashy, Caribbean-esque light directly results in how my images turn out, at least early on in my career. Some of my better early work was comprised of bright backgrounds and backlit settings in combination with some rather unique and abstract compositions.
Don’t get me wrong, this is one of my favorite periods of my work, especially because I had many opportunities to collaborate with talented and beautiful models. The lighting however, was lack luster. It provided me with no challenges and there is just nothing too it really. It simply is bright light.
There will always be the correct setting to shoot a new gorgeous girl for a fresh series with this method, but I certainly have moved on. My technical and creative priorities had to change, and thankfully were able to.
Where to Go
I am able to carve harsh shadows or drench a scene in beautiful warmth; it is this sculpting, dividing, and morphing of light that I adore. This is all done, might I add, with inexpensive equipment. Being able to go far with the basics is a skill that every photographer should own. However, I do feel that I am too reliant on said equipment. The entire natural lighting approach just feels out of my grasp.
There are two possibilities I think that steer me away from using natural lighting. The obvious one is that the sun can be a finicky and shy thing where I live. There are plenty of days where it just is not available for me to work with. The second reason, which seems more likely, is that I fear being out of control. With equipment, I can point it here, point it there, and be the in-charge director and photographer that I want to be. The unpredictable nature of outdoor lights just is not as appealing to me. Am I becoming a set-in-his-ways-old man? Perhaps I will address that question another time…
Honestly, I just want to relish in my work as much as possible. Expanding into new areas is always a motivation for me, and even though glamour and nude photography is not grounded in natural lighting, I still desire to experiment with it. Additionally, I love the sunshine and want to incorporate it more effectively into my shoots—the best of both worlds right?
Moving South Soon?
The answer may just be within my grasp. Moving in a southward direction is starting to make more and more sense to me.
I know I would feel happier on a daily basis, which would obviously help me with my work. I think a new, sunny climate would stop me from overthinking projects and I would be more motivated to simply do.
My guide, “Drama” is a good first step though, which funny enough came to me after visiting a tanning studio!
In all reality, I don’t think I could actually move permanently. The girls here are just too spectacular.
But being addicted to light is a habit I want to take care of and I notice that this is an addiction I benefit from.