Perfecting Photograph Shadowing / by Gary Haines

"Designer's Divide" taken at Ralph Lauren's Double RL Ranch in Southwest Colorado. 

"Designer's Divide" taken at Ralph Lauren's Double RL Ranch in Southwest Colorado. 

Patrons often walk into Grizzly Creek Gallery and are amazed by the depth and realistic shadowing created simply through a photograph. Many even ask if Gary’s works are actually paintings! He attributes this effect to his years of working with different mediums of art - learning techniques such as side lighting, foreground anchor points, and balance.

At the age of 12, Gary knew he wanted to become a commercial artist. He attended Arapahoe Community College where he focused on art history, drawing (including nudes! Gasp!), watercolor, and oil painting. This is where the effect of shadowing came in. 

“When you’re drawing or painting, often times it’s of still life images. To create the perfect shadow, you rotate the image under certain lighting that casts the perfect shadow on the object and simply fill in that shadow,” explains Gary. 

After art school, Gary became fascinated with an all-new medium to him: photography, and most other art forms went to the wayside. “When you apply the idea of side lighting to photography, it gives that 3-D image, an illusion of dimension.”

The major difference, of course, is that you can’t tilt landscapes to create shadows like you can a piece of paper or canvas. 

However, learning side lighting through other mediums helped him grasp the notion when photographing landscapes. Gary will find a location and shoot just to the left or right of center, which pulls the natural shadows of a landscape to give that feel three-dimensional feel. His photograph, “Rancher’s Paradise,” is a great example of side lighting.

Natural shadowing is also one of Gary’s best friends when it comes to his stunning images. Before any photo shoot, Gary scouts the area, finding the perfect place. This includes looking for a balanced piece of landscape that also allows for a good foreground anchor point. Once he has found these, he waits… 

Sunrise and sunset help to create the natural shadows needed. His above photograph, “Designer’s Divide,” was taken around 5:30 am to capture those shadows. 

Longer shadows are created when the sun is closer to the horizon. Shorter shadows are created when the sun is higher in the sky - around 8 or 9 am. However, it always depends on the scene. 

Through patience and a background in many other art mediums, he has learned, on his own, over the years how to bring his photographs to life through shadowing.

Hopefully these small tips can help other photographers find their depth and dimension.