Shadow Play
Mandawa, India

Shadow Play

Shadow Play photo

We have all heard of the Golden Hour, aka the Magic Hour… that hour or so after sunrise and before sunset. During that time the sun is low in the sky and produces a softer, more flattering light.

Shadow Play photo
Varanasi, India
Shadow Play photo
Jodhpur, India

Absolutely, it is the best time to make photographs. But, when traveling, we donโ€™t have the luxury of shooting just early morning and late afternoon. We are on the move and shooting all day long, trying to capture the best images we can, and knowing we are not likely to return when lighting is better.

Shadow Play photo
Chand Baori Abhaneri
A 1200-year-old step well on the road from Jaipur to Agra
Shadow Play photo
Amber Fort, Jaipur, India

Shadow is the obstruction of light. Shadows appear to me to be of supreme importance in perspective, because, without them opaque and solid bodies will be ill defined; that which is contained within their outlines and their boundaries themselves will be ill-understood unless they are shown against a background of a different tone from themselves.

Leonardo DaVinci

Shadow Play photo
Varanasi, India
Shadow Play photo
Chandni Chowk Bazaar
Old Delhi, India

How to deal with that harsh midday sun and resulting strong shadows? ย Traveling through Rajasthan and northern India recently, I did battle with that brutal contrasty light. But finally, an epiphany: “Shadows are your friend.” Therefore, use the shadows as part of your composition. That made for some interesting shooting.

Shadow Play photo
Fatehpur Sikri, India
Shadow Play photo
Mandawa, India

Light illuminates texture and color – shadows define form.

Howard Pyle

Shadow Play photo
Mandawa, India
Shadow Play photo
Varanasi, India
Jodhpur, India
Jodhpur, India

I started wandering narrow alleyways looking for shadows. Dark, geometric shapes, cast from nearby buildings, add drama to an image and can totally change the mood.

Shadow Play photo
Udaipur, India

Soft, flattering light is almost always best for portraits, but if a face has deep wrinkles and a lot of character, harsher shadows can be an advantage.

Editor’s note: “Shadow Play” was first published in Mayย 2014. It is one of my all time favorites and I hope you will like seeing it again.

Ron Mayhew

Fine Art Photographer specializing in Still Life and Commercial Photography.

This Post Has 53 Comments

    1. Thank you so much. I am happy you liked it.

  1. It’s a terrific collection Ron – hope you were happy with your experiments with the shadows – high drama to my eyes ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. As I mentioned, when I looked to include the shadows into the composition my options improved greatly. Thanks for you comments Meredith.

  2. Moments of spot-lit intimacy captured by a passing stranger – what an interesting paradox – like the play of light and shade. Wonderful photos.

    1. I such an eloquent thought. I just remember it being hot and crowded. ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks Trish and thank you for visiting

      1. In that case I think your inner eye just got down to the heart of things, while you were busy being hot ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. I’ll accept that explanation. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. What a great set of images – I love them all.

    1. Thank you Jean. It is a fascinating part of the world.

  4. fascinating light…rhythm…and wonder…………….

    1. Thank you Smith. It was an interesting project

  5. Wow, another incredible series of photos Ron ~ truly art. The 4th and 5th shot mesmerize with the angles and perspective, but the man in the window would have to be my favorite…something powerful in the shot. And as you said, you used the shadows very well. Cheers!

    1. When I stopped fighting the contrasts light I started trying to incorporate it into the compositions, it was liberating. The guy selling water in the little cubicle did make for an interesting image. Randall, thanks for you generous comment.

      1. There is something about finding the right contrasts and being able to use light & shadow within a scene. Sometimes it clicks for me, and it is great fun (of course, there are many times it does not!). The shots you have here are a good example of when it all comes together.

        1. As you say, when it works, it is an asset to the image and when it doesn’t… Thank you Randall.

  6. I love this post, Ron. It’s inspiring. I often put aside my photos with too many shadows, thinking they’re ruined. But now I think I will look at them with a fresh eye, and try to decide whether the shadows make the composition more interesting. It is frustrating when traveling. If we are lucky enough to be at a place in those magic hours, it’s great, but too often, we’re out seeing the sights in the middle of the day, when the sun is too bright. These photos are great, and the shadows really do make the composition more interesting. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. An amazing gallery Ron! Those shadows certainly add depth to every one of these images.

    1. Thank you Madhu. We really enjoyed our adventure.

  8. Beautiful, beautiful images! The 1200 yr old steps remind me of an Esther print.

    1. Thanks Maya. You are so right about being Esther-like

  9. Wonderful gallery with full of stunning images. Thanks for sharing with us..

    1. My pleasure. Thank you for your comment and for stopping by.

  10. These are wonderful photos. I think it was NY Times’ great photo editor (and Magnum member), John Morris, who said, “If you want to make something look interesting, don’t light all of it.” These, especially the man in the dumbwaiter or whatever that box it, perfectly illustrate that.

    1. Thanks, Bill for your comment. So interesting you mentioned John Morris. I met him in Paris a few years ago. He was in his mid 90″s and sharp as a tack. A real honor. People talk about shooting during the golden hour, blue hour, etc. and they are absolutely right. But harsh light adds drama. I say shoot with whatever light is at hand. Again, thanks.

  11. These are stunning shots.

  12. So many lovely shots, Ron, but the opener stopped me in my tracks. It’s like a film set! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Love to your other half!

    1. Thanks, Jo. So good to hear from you. Lynne sends her regards.

  13. Awesome collection of shots!

    1. Thank you very much and thanks for visiting.

  14. I have been to India as well but didn’t go to Varanasi. It’s a place I really want to go too. I really loved India, so I very much enjoyed your photographs. They are excellent.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for your kind remarks. Varanasi is a very special place. I hope you will find your way there.

  15. Wow incredible pictures ๐Ÿ‘Œ .
    It is a very good post keep posting.

  16. You have captured the essence of Indian culture and lifestyle well. Good work ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Great shots… u have been to nice places… next time when u visit try north east…

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