If you’ve decided to spend this year’s summer vacation close to home, it’s good to have a plan for a rainy day—just as you would if you were traveling. I like the quality of the muted light that comes through windows on rainy days. Armed with a tripod and the expectation of long exposures, here are three subjects you can photograph by simply using the window light:
Food. As Darren Doeffinger has pointed out, classical painters used window light to illuminate still lifes, which were usually food or flowers. A rainy day is a good time to get out your tripod, reflector and backdrop and hone your skills or build your portfolio.
Above: I’d just gotten a bunch of tomatoes from a friend who grows unusual varieties, and wanted to show the different colors. I put everything in a large metal bowl (hence the highlight on the cuke on the lower left) and shot away with a Nikon D40 and 18-55mm lens.
Someone you love. Bring your loved one to the window. If the background’s cluttered, drape fabric over it. Make sure your subject is as close as possible to the window so you get the most light, and use oak-tag or a reflector to bounce light into the shadows.
Above: I posed my daughter, left, her cousin, and Max the Dog next to a large window and shot a semi-spontaneous 4-shot series with a Canon G9 at ISO 400.
Isolated artifacts. Go on a scavenger hunt. Find everyday household objects and photograph them isolated against a plain background. Look in the attic, the basement, or the garage and you’ll find photogenically worn things that you can turn into an artistic series.
Above: As I was writing this article, it was pouring out. Perfect! I ran out to the garage and grabbed an old pair of gardening gloves, placed one of them on a sheet of plain white computer paper, used another sheet to bounce light into the shadow, and exposed it at 1/60 sec at f/5 at ISO 400 with my Canon 40D, 17-85mmmm f/4-5.6 stabilized lens.