How do you make distinctive photographs of subjects that have been photographed countless times? That was the challenge British photographer Simon Norfolk faced for the assignment of shooting the classic Mayan ruins of Central America.
Simon identified two challenges that ultimately drove how he approached the shoot.
First, during the day, many of the monuments would be covered with tourists. Second, a number of the structures are situated in deep valleys or dense foliage which would result in obscuring shadows when the light is at it’s richest early or late in the day.
Simon’s solution: shoot the entire assignment at night when there will be no tourists, using multiple lights to illuminate the stone structures.
When Simon first suggested this course it gave me pause. The idea of arranging for evening access to the sites, the logistics of hauling lights to remote sites, and the need for power where there might be none, were added hurdles to an already challenging assignment.
Simon, certain this would work, took the time to run a full fledge test near his home in England. He lit up and shot an entire church. The result was convincing and he was given the green light to proceed.
But all the detailed planning in the world still can’t guarantee memorable photographs. And in this case Simon received an added boost when a light fog serendipitously arose at a few of the locations. The flood lights caught the thick air adding visual depth and texture to the scenes.
Simon and his crew threw themselves into this project, worked to create a unique portfolio, and the readers of National Geographic magazine reaped their well earned photographic rewards. (Click here to view more of Simon's Maya photographs.)
— David Griffin, Director of Photography