No Such Thing as Bad Light

Claude Monet, Vernon in the Sun

It’s a common myth that photographers might as well put their cameras away mid-day as the lighting is too flat to take interesting photographs. The so-called “magic hour” just after sunrise and just before sunset is thought to be by far the best time of day to photograph, while straight-up noon is the absolute worst. I’ve (almost) always been able to find something interesting to photograph any time of day though. But then I don’t do that much landscape photography and figured for those who do, the advice might make sense. That is I thought so until I saw Claude Monet’s painting Vernon in the Sun at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha today.

Monet’s Vernon in the Sun that looks like it was done smack in the middle of the day, under a withering sun, with no obvious shadows. But yet his rendering of the washed out mid-day lighting imparts tremendous atmosphere and feeling. Now Claude Monet was the master student of light, often studying and producing multiple paintings of the same scene in various lights. So, maybe he was better at seeing and recreating the beauty in mid-day scenes than us mere mortals, especially those of us using photography as our medium of choice. But it does suggest that a truly creative photographer should be able to find landscapes with expressive lighting even under the harsh noon sun.