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Waiting for Light in a Snowy Field

New York, NY, December 23, 2008
New York, NY, December 23, 2008

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I had to visit the same location twice within three days as I worked to get a sunset/holiday-lights photo for a client to use as a future holiday card.  Why visit twice?  To get different angles while working within the restrictions of a post sunset assignment.  Filmmakers refer to the hour after sunset as the magic hour, a time of beautiful light unmatched during the day.  As a still photographer I’ve come to realize that the magic hour doesn’t exist.  It’s not an hour, it’s the magic ten minutes.

On this type of assignment you mark when sunset occurs, where the sun will set, and you setup ahead of time.  The rest is waiting.  On a very cold day, as it was this past Saturday and Monday, you also want to be prepared; winter boots, long underwear, layers, warm hat and mittens or gloves that can allow for easy access to the finger tips.  When the magic ten minutes will occur is never perfectly set. It depends upon where the sun sets in relation to the subject, the weather and the amount of artificial light.  You cannot control the artificial light and you cannot control the natural light.  As the skies darken and night comes on there will be a moment when it all balances out perfectly – that’s the magic ten minutes of still photography.

One would think that standing outside in twenty degree weather for two to three hours would be boring.  It’s not, it’s anything but.  To be forced to slow down and watch the light is a wonderful thing. As you become attuned to its changes, the time goes by very quickly.  Often you are rewarded with something special, something expected.  In this case, it was the few short minutes when the skies had darkened enough to feel the glow of the artificial lights and the ice encrusted snow lit up purple, reflecting the color of the sunset.  It did not last long, another nine minutes and the ugly light of the yellow-green fluorescent street lamps was overtaking the ambient light.  The moment had passed.

My blog is almost a year old and it’s the end of the calendar year; a time to reflect and look ahead. Trying to think of what to say, my recent time spent waiting for the light seemed to provide the answer. We all are very busy, leading hectic lives, and we all have miles to go before we sleep.  On that journey stop, slow down, and take the time to watch as light moves from day to night.  You will be rewarded for your efforts.

Happy Holidays.

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