I was recently able to take part in a natural light photography workshop with Cat Garcia[i], in conjunction with Leica Akademie[ii] in London. Cat Garcia’s personal and commercial work involves using only natural, or available, light to shoot her subjects in, rather than involving lighting set ups or lots of equipment.
I was particularly interested in this workshop as for my project work I am taking all photographs outdoors using only the natural light available at the time. There are a couple of reasons for this; firstly I want to photograph the surfers in the surf environment – outdoors, on the beach, in the elements that, as a surfer in the UK, you have to deal with. I want to show them in the locations they go surfing as this is a part of who they are, and the identity of being a UK surfer. Secondly I don’t want to use artificial lighting set ups for this project, it’s not something I am particularly interested in doing at this point in time, I want my shoots to be done more naturally rather than studio-type staged, and to minimise the production necessities for the shoots. I want them to be just the surfer, me, and a camera. One of the reasons so many surfers I have spoken to through this project don’t identify with the images they see in magazines is because they don’t look “real” – so I want to keep my project “real”, in the sense of as little artifice to create the images as possible.
Cat’s portraits also emphasize this way of working. She doesn’t have a huge production team for her shoots, usually just her, the subject, and maybe an assistant. She doesn’t use lots of lights to create her work, just what is available on the day. She explained how she makes use of other objects nearby to add reflected light on to the subject or in the background. Cat also discussed how she works with the available or directional light to find the best way to have the subject facing or looking in order to bring life to the image, and add interest and narrative. These are definitely tools that I can bring to my project work. There’s not often directional light outdoors on the beach, in the way that there is through a window in a building for example, but there are ways that I could better use the light, through cloud cover perhaps, to add more depth to my images.
I love the simplicity Cat has to her work, nothing overly complicated but her work has a depth to it that draws you in. During the workshop she also discussed ways of framing the subject to keep the intensity and focus on them. As I am trying to show the environment as well as the surfer I think I sometimes get too concerned with showing the environment, and having that a large focus of the image. However by ensuring the person I am photographing is the main interest, that doesn’t mean the environment aspect is completely negated, but that the image will be better structured. It was a really interesting workshop and hopefully will carry through into my project work.
[ii] Leica Akademie https://uk.leica-camera.com/Leica-Akademie/About-the-Leica-Akademie Last Accessed: 09Dec2017