Hard February Light

I’ve never been crazy about winter—and the wild weather swings we’ve been experiencing these last few years haven't helped the situation. But every February, when the sun deigns to show up on late afternoons, our living room is—for lack of a better word—ignited: for about an hour the low-angle light rushes in through the front window and every object explodes with contrast. And every time I’m literally stunned by it. Sometimes I’ll shoot a few frames, sometimes I’ll just take it in. But I never fail to notice—even after all these years—and it never leaves me cold. Time and again I’ve found myself actively searching for this same mood, out there in the field.

The truth is, the more I look at light, the more I study its character and the way it shapes our world...the more I realize softness is rarely the element that grabs me. I like intersections, the play between extremes, broken shafts of luminescence and crisp edges; I like unexpected angles and dark pools and half-truths. Basically, I prefer hard light.

In our quest for the ultimate modifier it’s easy to forget how a single bare light source, on its own, can still be extremely interesting. There’s no outer or inner baffle, no white or silver coating to consider...The entire exercise becomes solely about distance, angle and placement; about allowing the light to bounce off its surroundings and hit obstacles, accepting interference and unevenness.

Last weekend we took a quick overnight trip to my in-laws—a location you’ve seen time and again on this blog. Except this time I brought a flash with me, just for kicks: the Godox AD200 (with the fresnel head). I didn’t bring a light stand or an assistant (!) but simply wandered around the house like some lunatic, holding the flash in one hand and the X-Pro2 in the other—old school. Sometimes I’d drop the flash on the floor or a table, mostly using TTL to keep manipulations at a minimum. I didn’t try to hide the nature of the light, didn’t try to blend it with the (barely-existent) ambient or use it as fill—I went all in. In my mind this was the February sun swirling around, or a table lamp or an oddly placed flood of some sort. It wouldn't be soft and it WOULD cast shadows. But life is full of shadows.

I don’t know how you feel about the results but personally, I like these a lot. They brought me elsewhere and they’re miles beyond what natural light would’ve given me in these circumstances. The next day however, the sun came out...and it was all gloriously just there for the taking.

One last detail for today. All these images have one thing in common: they were all processed in Capture One 12 on an iPad Pro. Wait...what?? Nope, I don’t have access to a super secret build of C1 on iOS (I wish). As part of my minimize friction/embrace mobile year I ordered Astrolab’s Luna Display—a Mac dongle that turns an iPad into a second display. It can be used to extend screen real estate...or to transform that iPad into a mobile wireless monitor in its own right. I’d tried software solutions in the past but they were always pretty terrible and useless. To be honest I’ve had a few disconnects here and there while using the Luna Display, but this is likely due to the iMac being in the basement of our house (I know for a fact the Wi-Fi signal isn’t great there); I’ll be adding mesh to our setup which should alleviate problems. But boy oh boy is this thing impressive: I can work on C1 remotely, from anywhere in our home, with zero lag. I even did remote typing tests to see how well it worked and I never missed a beat. Plus I’ve activated the Retina Display option so I’m working on the iPad Pro in full rez. This definitely fills one more piece of the puzzle. Kind of fun to be working in Capture One with the Apple Pencil too. Btw I blame/credit Macstories’ Federico Vittici for this one...that guy makes me spend way too much money but damn, he’s like an iPad workflow god (check out this post if you feel like geeking out on the subject).

Next up: a look at the new lighting kit.