It's finally spring in Vancouver--and it's at least sometimes starting to feel like it as well. (It's nice to be able to haul gear around without having to worry about shielding the cameras and lights from liquid sunshine!) Now, we all love having a wee bit higher probability of getting sunny weather, especially when there's been so precious little of it recently. But there's something else that makes us Vancouver architectural photographers just a little happier: the Spring Equinox is also North Day. Which is to say, it's the first day of the year where we actually get direct light on north-facing elevations.
Unless you're an architect and do daylighting calculations all the time (as some of my green building clients do) you're probably scratching your head at this point and saying "OK, that's a nice piece of nerdy trivia, but...WTF does it have to do with photography?" Lots. If you're building a house in Vancouver proper, what do you want a view of if you can get it? The North Shore mountains. What direction do those windows have to face? North. This whole business presents a challenge for Vancouver real estate and architectural photographers, because this elevation will never get direct natural light after the Fall Equinox and before the Spring Equinox.
We have ways to get around this: shooting twilight exteriors is a favourite, as is creating our own light or reflecting the light around to make better use of what's there. Creating it means getting some big flashes happening or a lot of smaller lights--both of which are a production challenge. Reflecting it is sometimes a possibility, especially downtown (some buildings with prominently north-facing elevations, like Christ Church Cathedral and the Hotel Vancouver, get really interesting north light for most of the year thanks to neighbouring towers acting as gigantic bounce cards), but it's not usually as practicable because the sun typically ends up somewhere that's going to cause flare. But in either case, we'd really prefer to be using God's light rather than having to fake it: Mother Nature just does a nicer and more realistic job faster, even as good as our lighting setups are. So, beginning yesterday, those of you with buildings for us to photograph with significant north-facing elevations now get the benefit of direct sunlight. Until September 22, that is; so get on it!
If you're going to take advantage of this, make sure you're ready for us to roll in for an early start somewhat before sunrise (if your building's north and east elevations are prominent) or a late finish (if north and west are prominent; we can sometimes roll this in as part of a twilight exterior shoot). If exteriors are involved in a project, we'll often ask you what direction your building faces (or look it up on Google Maps, if your site isn't a new development that doesn't exist on the maps yet) so we can determine this accurately and get the coffee ready!