Planning for Light

Scouting a location

This is a location that I have painted many times. Watching the weather, I knew that there was a snowstorm coming and that the morning after would be crystal clear. The sun would rise in a cloudless sky which will yield some wonderful color and opportunities for a wide color palette. 


I knew the sun would rise at 7:18 AM which meant that I would have to be in place by 6:45.  Since I would be at the location before any sunlight, I know it will be cold. Dressing warm enables me to be comfortable and makes it easy to wait for the light. 

Getting to a location early, I can be in place with my camera, setup and be ready to go. I also clear the ground where I am standing so that my feet will not be cold. I look for composition with a dynamic array of shapes. Now I just need to wait for the light. In the photograph above, there is the slightest hint of warm light hitting the main tree trunk in the foreground. It is the warm light of the sky, just before sunrise.

Sunlight peaking through

The sun is rising and poking it's way through the tree line directly behind me causing a spotlight effect on the distant hills and some of the trees in my subject. I'm really liking the golden light in the distant hillside through all of the branches. The light changes very fast and within a matter of minutes we will be in full sunlight.

Full Sunlight

The light is now everywhere bouncing and reflecting with a strong play of very warm light against the cool shadows. An interesting observation, the more sunlight, the flatter (graphic) the picture. Everything being lit equal brings all the sun struck branches to the forefront. In the previous picture, there is much more depth because of the layering of light. 

The sequence from predawn to full sunlight was less than 10 minutes. You can see you need to know where you're going to be when the sun comes up. You haven't got time to search for your location. An old photography adage, you get more by waiting then you do by moving.

Now all I have to do is make the paintings. I'm planning two 60x84 inch canvases, pre-dawn and full light.  I don't paint exactly what I photograph, it's always about what I feel and what I want the viewer to experience. The photography is the inspiration, the painting is the art.