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“The best way out is always through.”

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Look Through Any Window

OK, if you're old enough to remember that song title (a big hit for the Hollies in 1966) then chances are you're as old as I am. The Hollies, of course, were singing about looking out through any window, but what I'm writing about today is shooting in through any window.

A few weeks ago I was wandering around a beach park in Connecticut and found a beautiful old carousel inside a large glassed-in building. The late-afternoon light pouring in through banks of windows was lighting up a few of the carousel horses beautifully from a slight side angle. Because the light was coming from the side, it was creating beautiful textures and shapes in the carved horse.

The only problem with the setting was that the sun was also creating so much glare on the glass (which wasn't particularly clean) that I couldn't get a clean shot of any of the horses without having a lot of reflections of the sky and beach behind me. Since my car was nearby I walked over and switched from my 18-70mm Nikkor zoom to a 70-300mm zoom so that I could get tighter shots and hopefully eliminate the reflections. I also chose a widow that was on a slight angle to the bright areas behind me so that there were fewer reflections. It worked. While there was still some glare (look carefully at the left side of the shot and you'll see some glass highlights--but that is a real out-of-focus window in the far background, not a reflection), it was minimized by using the longer lens and by choosing a different angle.

A polarizing filter is also a great help in these situations (I will blog more about them in an upcoming post) and all you have to do is rotate the filter to eliminate most glass-surface reflections. The only problem with using a polarizer is that they do suck up about a stop-and-a-third of lighting. I would have used one on this shot if it had already been on the lens, but the light was changing so fast I simply didn't have time to find and mount one. I was working at sunset essentially and the light was shifting very fast. In the minute or so it took me to change lenses several of the carousel horses fell out of the light.

I must be a snoop by nature because I love looking in windows and you can find a lot of neat stuff to photograph there. I love finding antique-shop windows after hours, for example, when the sun is lighting up the displays. If you find yourself in the same situation, just be careful to get as close to the glass as you can to block out most of the extraneous reflections and you'll find that you can get some cool shots looking not just out, but in any window.

And if you're old enough, you can hum the Hollies song in your head while you shoot.

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