light lessons

December 16, 2019  •  7 Comments

Given the fact that this Saturday, 21 December, is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, it seemed appropriate to give myself some lessons in lighting.  These ongoing studies in the reaction of light and color help me in all the types of photography I do.

One of the first things I learned through studies like these is that the substance of the background is going to impact the subject.  With fabric, if it is woven in such a way that produces a sheen, it seems to, in my mind, detract from the subject.  Unless you are looking specifically for a shiny background, a flat backdrop is what I am looking for.  In this case, the subject is a humble silk peony shot against a flat black jacket.

peony on blackpeony on black


As always, I shoot from above, from the sides, with the camera canted low, or lens tight on the subject.  There are numerous possibilities, and many outcomes.  Although similar to the first shot, this is a little fuller, with more breathing room.

peony on black 2peony on black 2

Contrasting the same flower on snow renders totally different results.  This is in full shade on groppel.

peony on snowpeony on snow

Putting the flower in morning sun on ice highlights the individual petals a bit more. 

peony on icepeony on ice


I  thoroughly enjoyed the creativity and words that you - Christina, Steve, TTT, Jean and Sam, Larry and Carol, Lisa, Barbara, Karen, Ingrid, Charlie, Dianne, and Catherine - posted this week.  Thank you!  Enjoy the extra seconds of daylight fall on the land starting on Saturday.

until next Monday,


a passion for the [email protected]


The peony on ice is so brilliantly luminous - I like that one best. However did it occur to you to combine them?! A December portrait for sure.
elida hanson-finelli(non-registered)
Thanks for this solstice lesson and refresher on the subtle and powerful effects of varying light. Love peonies, I think that is one? You have captured their subtleties with grace. By the way, I loved your shots from The Wool Festival in Santa Fe, we were in Texas and I fell of the email wagon to become the navigator for our journey. The child was beautifully captured. Thanks for all your fine work and inspiration! Love #4 and #1.
Steve Immel(non-registered)
Good for you to keep giving yourself lighting puzzles to solve. As Terry says the flat black focuses the most attention of the subject and the ice is an unusual and effective foil for the fresh as spring peony. I'm going with the bigger, tighter shot in number two. It's glorious.
Terry Thompson(non-registered)
Nice study Daryl. I'm going with 2 and 4.
When I was in film production most all of our interviews were filmed with a flat black surface behind the interviewee as you have done here. It really puts the attention on the subject and makes the lighting pay off. The flower on the ice is also especially interesting. Nice way to get into the new year Daryl.
The subtle perfection of subject against black versus the sparkle-dynamism of perfectly angled light on subject and reflective background. Excellent examples for creating mood with light.
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