I have alway loved window light. It’s one of the first questions I ask when talking with a prospective subject about the environment they will be photographed in. “Is it on the first floor?” They occasionally think this is odd, or, perhaps, that I am quintessentially lazy and don’t want to walk my gear up flights of stairs. Not the case! I just want to know if the windows are within reach and I can light from outside. If the quality of existing light is too minimal, or the wrong direction, that is a problem I can fix, just be re-creating, re-directing, or otherwise making window light happen. The above shot, of Little Freddie King, “King of the Blues,” a legendary guitarist who performs in New Orleans, is done with a single flash. A large battery flash outside, sits on a tall stand, and the window that is not in the picture, off to camera left, is sealed with a Lastolite Skylite Rapid Panel. Little Freddie looks in the direction of that light, and its power allows me to light the kitchen naturally, and also bring the window that is in the picture into some measure of exposure control.
The shot below, of Little Joe Lassiter, at his drum set in Preservation Hall, is also done principally with “artificial” window light, created with silks on the windows and Speedlights firing through those silks. The trigger flash for those Speedlights is connected to the camera via a series of SC-29 cords, which is old school technology given the dawn of radio TTL Speedlights such as the SB-5000 unit. But they were effective in providing Joe with a wonderful, smooth, natural looking light, which was perfect for his amazing face.
Below is a bit of a wild ass sketch of the proceedings above.
And then there’s the windows on the upper floors. Sometimes, you have to just go with the flow and shoot what’s there, or not there. Unless it’s 3am and you are on deadline, shooting a cover story for LIFE magazine that is closing that day.
I was assigned to the aftermath of chief creator and Muppeteer Jim Henson’s tragic death, and the devastating emotional effect that had on the Muppets and all the folks who worked there. I needed a shot of Bert and Ernie, looking wistfully at Jim’s empty desk, by the window. Which of course was dark, as I was about to do the shot in the middle of the night. The solution was to go one flight up from Jim’s old office, to the roof of the Muppet Mansion on the East Side, and boom a light (in a rain storm) out over the window, six stories up. This was big flash, an old Time-LIFE Speedotron unit, lashed securely up there in the wind and rain, and being driven by a radio trigger. Pow. Instant daylight.
Film was shipped straightaway crosstown to the Time-LIFE lab, processed and dropped into the story. Done. Window light is a beautiful thing, even when you have to make it yourself, six stories up.
Irene Abdou says
Love the light in the first image especially of Little Freddie King. So crisp and true!
Norm Solomon says
Great Images! …The muppets photo & what it took to get are incredible! `Always learn something from you Joe!
Keith Emmerich says
Love the smooth and subtle lighting on Little Freddie King. It sets the mood for his pose and plays perfectly with his age.
Marci Macha says
wow! just amazing how your brain comes up with solutions like in the puppet photo!
Wow. Class personified. Locked in brilliance right there.
Matthew Ling says
Amazing use of flash to create natural looking window light. Anyone who can tell the light is artificial is lying!
Fantastic. I have noticed that the angle makes quite a lot of difference when you are looking to capture the essence using window light. All the photos appearing here have a different angle on the basis of how the grapher wants to use the light. It’s interesting if you think about it.
Dogum Fotografcisi says
Wonderful lovely light on Little Joe Lassiter that creates an extra sympathy for him. I wonder what post-production is used for those bluesmans shots. Also i would be very very pleased if can see see your your window light portraits -without any artificial light… Anyway in the end following you is instructive and all your work is very inspiring.
Gorgeous lighting on Little Freddie King! The exposure of the window shown in spot on with the foliage! Truly the master of light!
Jim Jacob says
Window light can be tricky, but you nailed it! Awesome
kad?köy foto?raf merkezi says
Amazing photography with very good light sence.