I was down south at a friend's house a few summer's back, sketching his little place from the narrow field at the front, when the landowner pulled up on his way up the road to his house, and stopped to ask what I was doing. He had a Calgary artist (whose name I never got) with him, and explained he was taking her up to the valley so she could take pictures to paint a commission for him of the view for his house in Calgary. It was a really bright day out. He said he figured it was the best light to be able to photograph the valley. I remember she gently shook her head and said late afternoon or early evening would be best, when the shadows begin to creep around the mountains and sprout from the base of the trees. He laughed in response. She got quiet, shrugged lightly, politely smiled at me and they continued on their way.
There wasn't a cloud in the sky that afternoon, and the light was very strong everywhere. It was good lighting for photos, but it didn't seem like the type of mood she was after to paint. That valley, like most mountain valleys can be really moody. A clear day is nice to paint, but it's more interesting to paint shadows and their color variations; the interesting shapes they make and how those shapes interact with the colors and shapes of things around them. And the clouds! The weather changes in the mountains in the south part of the province are pretty epic. Blue skies are nice, but looming weather (I think) is better.
I try to challenge myself when I take pictures of things to paint to not capture something in typical lighting. It's part of an ongoing internal struggle with me to put down money for a decent camera. I'm only taking pictures of things to paint. I'm not a photographer and I really love taking pictures on my iPhone or Instax cameras, but I can only carry so much film, and my phone only has so much room and battery life. And round and round this though process goes. I still need to get a good camera. It is one of my goals this year. I told myself that last year too, but...nothing happened.
Anyway, all this to say that I enjoy taking pictures in low or interesting light and then painting from those photos. I just finished up this last commission before our holidays. It was from a photo I took last fall when I was visiting my friend Sam in Ottawa. I went out one evening and was struck by this sneaky sun illuminating the quiet street and all the fallen maple leaves in front of her house.
So many lovely golds and a few hints of reds and cool blues. Almost makes the streets of our nation's capitol look like they are paved with gold. Nope. It's just a trick of the light.