Looking closely at shadows

A simple way to get your attention back.

Get a camera and find yourself a real life shadow. Make sure it’s not a silhouette or a reflection. If you can’t see one straight away, don’t give up too quickly because where you find light, you will inevitably find a shadow. Once you have it in your sights, make it your main subject. Honour it fully with your attention. Look a little closer.

Here are some elements you can look for…

  • Shape — the size and shape is a creative interpretation of the object that blocks the light. You can take a photo of the object and its shadow together to reveal this play, or focus on the shape of the shadow only.
  • Combinations — shadows are 2D and several objects can block the light in the same area, creating a combination shadow of multiple shapes. This can be fun. For example, you may see a half-tree, half-person shape.
  • Length — Shadows are longer when the sun is low in the sky, so try looking for them early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  • Blackness — this depends on how opaque or translucent the blocking object is, as well as what other light is coming in from the sides.
  • Contrast — even a shadow that is not too dark will stand out on a sunny day, because its so bright everywhere else.
  • Clarity — Exposing for both the highlights and the shadows can be tricky, so decide how much detail you want to capture in each.
  • Surface — try looking for shadows appearing on grass, walls, sand, or a surface with a strong pattern or texture like bricks or fabric.

The more we notice the details, the more fascinating the shadows get. And the more it holds our attention, the more alive and present we feel.

Teacher and Students by Daniele Oberti