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Last Light

A Photography Art Project from the Perspective of the Athlete and the Photographer
25 Jan 2021

Paige Claassen, Eddie Bauer Climbing Guide

As light wanes, a fleeting moment of magic exists. It’s a moment we see every day, as shadows dance across parking lots or overtake light on the concrete wall out the office window. But freezing that moment in time, capturing the geometry of sun suspended between shadows, demands a delicate understanding of light’s immaculate timing.  

Tara Kerzhner seems to orbit around these moments. Waking in the dark hours of winter’s bitter cold to wait in the shadows. Hanging from a rope, camera poised for the moment the sun kisses the rock’s blunt arete, illuminating the climber she has bribed to shiver in the darkness. To be honest, for anyone but Tara, capturing the retreat of shadows isn’t that fun. It’s cold. It requires patience and military precision so as not to miss the moment. Yet, we all say yes, every time Tara asks. We’ve seen the results of her visions. We want to play a small role in helping her pull them off. Our egos beg to be included in her magic.

Because when Tara freezes light and dark, it’s magical. Suddenly a scene we see every day is golden and illuminated, contrasted by dramatic backdrops of black nothingness. We trust her process. And inevitably, within hours of her shutter clicking, she’ll text us a treat. It was worth it, she’ll say. Look.

Tara Kerzhner, Photographer

The slivers of light found only in the first and last hour of the day are my absolute favorite for shooting. Putting together a collection of images showcasing Last Light was both logistically challenging and demanding for the athlete. Thankfully working with world class athletes that also fit neatly into the category of close friends has its perks. Over the course of our little art project, Paige and I made a plan of attack and set out to make something beautiful. 

Shooting in Last Light tips and tricks:

It’s no secret that the best light of the day is at golden hour – aka Last Light. It’s those coveted moments of stillness before the world is awake, or just as your adventure has begun. It just so happens to also be the most beautiful time of the day for photography.

When is the best light of the day for photography?

I have a soft spot in my heart for the best light of the day because I believe that it makes the best photos. Optimal light brings out the contrast and color of everything on the other side of your lens. Whether you call it golden hour, last light or first light, it truly is the best light. 

When is the worst light of the day for photography?

Generally speaking, mid-day produces the most difficult light of the day for photography. The bright overhead glow washes out colors and creates difficult shadows. If I can, I avoid shooting in the middle of the day.

What kind of camera settings should I use for shooting in Last Light?

Because the light changes so rapidly during the first and last hour of each day, you’ll find yourself constantly adjusting your settings in Last Light. I rely heavily on a histogram or light meter so I can be sure I’m exposing my images correctly.

What’s a histogram?

A histogram is a graph available on most digital camera displays that shows the amount of tones of particular brightness found in your photograph. This ranges from black (0% brightness) to white (100% brightness). If you are shooting on film, you might find yourself using a light meter.

What happens if you miss the light?

Because light is so fleeting, it’s not uncommon that you’ve set up your shot perfectly and suddenly the light is gone. However, a well-composed image without the ideal light can still be a strong image. In my shoot with Paige, the sun set at the same moment that I found my favorite composition. Luckily I had a flash in my bag, so I pulled it out and shot more images after the sun had set. It was unexpected but kind of magical to save the shot I had composed. 

What’s the takeaway? 

Shooting in the best light of the day will make your image better, period. It’s not uncommon for me to plan a shot based on the way the light moves. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting up early and going to bed late. I’d rather be early for a sunrise than miss it all together.

Anything else?

I enjoy using an app called PhotoPills which allows you to see exactly when first and last light will be, using augmented reality when holding your phone up to your horizon line. I use this app all the time to plan out my shots. 


Rock Climbing Athlete

Paige Claassen holds an impressive list of sport climbing accomplishments around the world, from first ascents in South Africa to 5.14d ascents in the United States. She typically chooses iconic lines that represent benchmarks in the sport and are rarely repeated due to their difficulty and the level of technical skill they require.

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