February’s Assignment – Shadows

In the winter when the sun’s trajectory heads south in the northern hemisphere, the exact opposite phenomena occurs in the southern hemisphere creating summer. In the north, the daylight hours grow shorter while in the south they advance longer.  Over the course of 365 days, due to the earth’s angle of spin, our faithful, life-giving star’s trajectory will eventually reverse its course across the sky above. The eternal dance of light and dark perpetually effects seasonal change all over the globe. Barring any cloud cover, when the sun’s rays strike any part of the earth at a low angle, objects on the surface are bathed in light on one side while casting long shadows on the “dark side.” An opposite but equal reaction occurs. Varying levels of contrast, yin-yang of two opposites, the interplay of shadow and light…isn’t this what photography is all about?

While the sun’s path is still low in the north, we thought it would be a perfect environment in which to send you out with your cameras utilizing them as shadow magnets. Usually a photographer’s eye is trained to wait and capture the “magic hour” light of twilight, when the sun is either just above or slightly below the horizon and baths subjects in golden light including clouds. Where are the shadows at this time of day? What subject matter is bathed in light and which is in shadow? People? Mountain majesty? Forests? Single sticks in the sand? Low or high, near or far, where can you place shadow in your images for effect? For this assignment we want you to go out not only at twilight but also at the most “contrasty” part of the day. Bright sun sunshine, even at high noon, will create it’s opposite character – darkness – to some degree. Enjoy the moment the sun is either coming up or going down, see shadows shorten and lengthen depending on the time of day. Wherever or whenever you see shadows, notice the light around them, creating them. Use them to create silhouettes, self portraits, studies in details that may be found in them. Frame contrasting shadows with the light that creates them as the surrounding negative space. Or make light the predominant subject of your image, using the heavy darkness of shadow as negative space.

Of course, artificial light is still light. Maybe your bent is to go outside at night in the snow and use flashlights, headlamps or even your camera’s flash to control the shadows of familiar objects. A simple yet complex, leafless tree in the day can be transformed into a living, moving, menacing night creature. Or the same tree can be made to create a silhouette of its own. Intersecting or overlapping light sources can create a dance all of your own making. You’re the conductor of your own light orchestra using shadows as your dancers. Indoor shadows can be just as just as dramatic using the most mundane of household subjects. A lamp becomes your setting sun and the table setting, your landscape.

“Play” is an appropriate term to use here. Play with your shadows as would a child chasing a balloon. Use shadow and light as your playthings and see what kind of magic your imagination can conjure up. What could hurt? Well, maybe an unfortunate direct glimpse at the sun might not be advantageous especially for a photographer, so be careful out there! We wait with baited breath to view the work you create using shadows as your intent to photograph.


Submitting images:

Please send all submissions to bobm@rmsp.com. All images should be:

• jpeg format
• 72 ppi
• 600 pixels on the longest side
• If possible, we’d love it if the images you submit have your name in the file name and include a watermark (that’s the “© John Doe” at the bottom of the pic).


February 22, 2012
Submitted images will appear in an online gallery on Paper Airplanes, RMSP’s blog on or about February 24, 2012. All images will be used in the online gallery for this specific assignment only and will be copyrighted to the photographer. An email confirmation will be sent once your submission is received.  If you do not receive the email confirmation, please contact bobm@rmsp.com.

3 thoughts on “February’s Assignment – Shadows

January’s Assignment Gallery – Critters : Paper Airplanes

[…] by the way, here is a link to February’s assignment. We’re loving the dedication and involvement you are all showing with our monthly […]

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Barry Grivett

Hi Bob,

Based on your lengthy effusive introduction you are even more excited than usual by this month’s assignment. Perhaps, you should include some of your own images.

Interestingly, it is your lead image by Marcy James (as 365 Day Project image #108) which invigorated my awareness of the power of shadow(s) in a photograph!

February’s Assignment Gallery – Shadows : Paper Airplanes

[…] Shadows play a major role on the grand stage of life. Darkness both contrasts, and is created by, impeded light. The so-called dark side of the moon and lunar eclipse are a creation of this phenomena on a planetary scale, as is our own nighttime on Earth – all of which are portrayed in this month’s gallery. As one of our regular readers pointed out – thanks, Barry! – about my introduction to February’s assignment, I seemed a bit more passionate about this particular topic than others past and he is definitely right. This is simply because I love to study contrast and shadow in my own photographic work. I couldn’t be happier to discover that others are just as passionate or at least gave it their best shot working with the shadow theme in their shooting process. The images here are just amazing and exactly what I had hoped for! Abstract and literal shapes, infused meaning, stark contrast in scenes and imagination run amok. Heck, one of the photographers focused on “eye shadow.” I sure didn’t see that coming! And if you look carefully, you’ll even find love symbolically expressed and embedded in some of these shadowy concepts – appropriate for the month of February. Bingo! […]

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