A couple posts ago, I talked about Frank Ockenfels’s concept of a light journal. One area in which I’ve been following his advice in spirit (though not through formal practice) is simply by looking out my window.
I live on the third story of my apartment complex and I work from home for my day job. I situated my office such that I can easily glance out at downtown Omaha from my desk. While this sometimes unnecessarily distracts me from my work, it allows me to continually observe the dramatic effects of how light changes the mood of everyday scenes throughout the days and seasons.
For example, there’s a brick building with some ivy growing on it in an adjacent alley that’s easily visible from my desk, and I’ve been fascinated by watching the gradual changes in the way the afternoon light falls on that building (and the way the ivy has gone from vibrant greens to muddy browns). The subject of today’s shot is another example. If I stand at my window and look directly out, this is what I see. In the morning, I’ve watched the sun rise from behind these flags. In the evening, I’ve watched the golden hour light shine directly on them. When it gets a bit darker, the sky in the background will sometimes grow vibrant with oranges and reds or blues and purples. And when night falls completely, lights from beneath the flags shine upwards and illuminate them against the black sky.
I believe tuning into these kinds of details is incredibly important as a photographer. It’s not that the observations themselves will directly lead to great photographs – I don’t think I’ll ever make a masterpiece out of that alley or these flags – but the habits and perspectives that you develop through this process will improve your chances for success. At the very least, the photographs you make will mean more to you.