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The direction of the light

There is something else you need to take into account: the direction of the light, or to be more precise, where the light is coming from, the place where it originates.

Whenever the luminous source moves, a shadow changes its shape and position.

A standing figure will cast a short shadow at midday when the sun is high in the sky, and a long one in the evening when it starts to slip below the horizon.inflatable trampoline australia

The higher the source of light the shorter the shadows. In the summer, when the sun is set higher in the sky, the shadows at noon are not as long as they are in winter at the same time. There are even parts of the tropics where the sun is sometimes vertical and a stick set upright in the ground will cast no shadow. But that is an exception. Conversely, the shadows lengthen considerably in the morning and in the evening when the sun is low in the sky.

Objects, lighting and shadow

Objects can receive three kinds of light: sunlight, ordinary daylight and artificial light. Their aspect and that of their shadows will vary depending on which of these lights we see them in.

Generally speaking, the brighter the light the stronger and sharper the shade. This is the case when an object is exposed in full sunlight. If the light is indirect in an overcast sky, the shadows are less distinct and less contrasted, and they tend to disappear completely in diffuse light.

When an object is lit by a single source of light, its sides situated opposite the light are said to be in the shade, whereas we use the term “projected shadow” to define the dark form cast by the illuminated object on the ground or on other interposed objects. This projected shadow is the result of the absence of light at the place where the luminous rays are intercepted by the object.

Shadows take the same form as the objects by which they are cast. For example, a rectilinear figure will cast a rectilinear shadow and a curved object will have a curved shadow. But the shape of the shadow varies according to the form of the surface onto which it is cast.

In sunlight, the source of illumination, that is to say the sun, is so far away and so powerful compared to the objects it illuminates, that the rays of light falling on our planet are supposed by convention to be parallel and this is how they are always treated in daylight scenes (although in fact, as with any luminous source, they “radiate” from the centre of the sun).

The thing to remember, then, is that, in natural light, you should treat the rays as though they were parallel.

The higher the source of light the shorter the shadows. In summer, when the sun is set very high in the sky, the shadows at noon are not as long as they are in winter at the same time. There are even parts of the tropics where the sun is sometimes vertical and a stick set upright in the ground will cast no shadow. But that is an exception. Conversely, the shadows lengthen considerably in the morning and the evening when the sun is low in the sky.

In sunlight, parallel rays will cast parallel shadows which, seen in perspective, will naturally converge towards the same vanishing point.

If the shadow cast by a solid object is intercepted by other objects, for example a fallen tree trunk, a wall or a staircase, it is “carried along” the surface of these objects. The exact form of the shadow will be determined by the points of impact of the rays passing over the perimeter of the illuminated object and continuing towards the object receiving the projected shadow.

This shadow also obeys the laws of optics and will have to be put into perspective in order to give a realistic effect.