Middle of the Day

Having spent 20 some years in a B&W darkroom before ever shooting a piece of color film, I have different attitude than most color landscape shooters in regard to light; and I’m talking about the golden hour thing. Ultimately, I would say that I put less emphasis on it than others. Of course this statement needs to be qualified. When the golden hour is happening, I’m out there slaving to juxtapose compositional elements with great light just as much as anyone. The only thing that makes a great composition better is good light. Agreed. But while great light cannot carry a horrible composition, a tremendous comp doesn’t (necessarily) need light of any PARTICULAR color.

If you believe that an image in monochrome can be as powerful as a golden hour sunset/sunrise extravaganza, then essentially, you believe an image can be carried by composition alone. And so I don’t necessarily mail in the middle of the day. I use it to scout, but to also to look for those special moments that can only happen when the sun is high.

The Cerebral Approach
Canon 1DS II, Tamron 16-35 @ 16mm, 1/80th second @ f11

In “The Cerebral Approach”, its pretty obvious that those shadows in the brainrock are time of day/time of year dependent and the cloud will never exist again. Slice of time and all that. The scene was never going to get good light as it was facing the wrong way for sunrise and there was a mountain blocking rays at sunset.  (You might note that the tree is almost dead center. Truth be told I delight in finding compositions that support this kind of “rule breaking”, if you will. I don’t really believe in compositional rules, but more on that later)

Ballerina Grande
Canon 5DMII, 17-40 @ 17mm, 1/200th @ f 11

The Ballerina Grande I ran into just before noon in the Organ Pipe National Monument. I had to rush before the sun got over the top of the saguaro cactus and I would loose my “candle”. No big deal, just a moment in the desert.

Making Your Eyes Crazy
Canon 5DMII, 70-200 f4 @ 135mm, 1 200th @ f16

This is titled “Making Your Eyes Crazy”, because thats what Ian said when I showed this to him. I was leading a workshop in death Valley and we were coming out of the Mesquite Flat dunes, when I noticed the darndest thing. It seemed all the dunes facing into the sun were at the same angle to the sun, and virtually EVERY ripple  that was visible was backlit. I’ve never seen anything like it.  Nobody else on the workshop even stopped when I pointed it out, and they had to wait for me in the bus. Now I’m not saying that this is necessarily a great picture, but an example of some the things that can and do happen if you pay attention.

End of Days
Canon 5DMII, 24-105 @ 105mm; 1.125th @ f11

In “The End of Days” well, obviously the dark cloud is casting a negative shadow. Whoa, its not supposed to be like that! Why won’t the Twilight Zone music ever get out of my head?

Its my feeling, if you can see light you can shoot it, and there are a whole world of opportunities that don’t necessarily involve golden hour light. So, good light and good luck. (Not that you necessarily need it, good light, that is)

George Stocking

Author: George Stocking

George Stocking is a professional freelance photographer, residing in Phoenix, AZ. He works regularly as a contract photographer for Arizona Highways, and his work often graces the pages of Arizona Highways Magazine, Calendars and Books. His work has appeared in numerous other national publications. You can see more of his work on his website.

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