Using only natural light, my current lighting set up is dictated by the layout of what passes for a studio.
The large room is lit by a single, large western facing window.
The walls are decorated with an off-white matt – sufficiently white enough to not produce a colour-cast, the ceiling with a soft matt white.
During the day, light enters the room in an even manner. The building is located in quite an open environment, the studio is located in an upstairs room, the view directly opposite is open with no over-looking buildings. Old in character, all the buildings are externally stonewashed. Consequently, the adjacent and opposite buildings bounce lots of beautifully diffused, soft light into the studio. Inside the studio, the light is further softened by the soft matt surfaces of the walls and ceiling. There are no dark surfaces to absorb light and provide negative fill.
In effect, the surrounding environment acts as a reservoir of light – buffering the ebb of flow of light as the sun completes its path through the sky.
Morris, 2017. Untitled # 4
The images from the series Cravings were taken in this studio arrangement.
They are beautifully lit images, having a richness and a depth.
Are there any problems associated with this arrangement?
There is a brief period, around late afternoon, where the arc of the sun results in a beam of light entering the room. The cause of this is the sun’s lower position in the afternoon sky, together with it falling in line with a gap between two buildings. The effect of this beam is to produce a hotspot of light which transects the still life table.
If I was looking for a particular aesthetic, a warm summery scene with high contrast split between pools of bright sunlight and deep shadows, this would be ideal and I could put this to use. However, for my current projects it is not what I am looking for.
So, when this phenomenon occurs, I sit back, and reflect on the day’s work before packing away the equipment for another day.
It’s all about finding the right light, and basing my judgement on the Cravings images, I believe I have done just that.
It is either that or waiting.
Records suggest that Vermeer’s studio faced north. However, I suspect that at least some of the great artists and photographers didn’t have north facing windows and fantastic light – consistent all day, every day. If I am right, I am beginning to share some skills with great company: the ability to be in the moment, and to see light as an entity with a presence of its own. Oh, and learning to wait …
See also: A View from a Window