There's this woman, Paola from Barcelona, who trades in boxes of shadows. I know this because I purchased a set of sixty for less than twenty bucks which, as the price of shadows go, is a really good deal. The shadows are Photoshop overlays designed to grant that little je-ne-sais-quoi to your photography.

Before Paola, I stuck to shadowless photo backgrounds on the principle that safe is better than sorry. No more. I now navigate an shadowy world of mystery. One day my wall reflects a set of cathedral windows, the next an array of crisp tropical fronds. Depending on the mood, I can peer from behind window blinds or command attention from the spotlight.

It's addictive.

In fact, I have had to learn to hold back a bit It's tempting to combine a crisp winter foliage with a sharp set of high-rise windows but shadows are trickier than you think. There are angles to consider, unexpected reflections and twists of light. A light touch it the way to go.

It would be easy to dismiss Paola's shadows as gimmicks but for me, the opposite is true. Those shadows are enabling me to experiment with impunity. Since Paola, I have been hunting for shadows of my own, looking for the plays of light around me, taking daring photographs in all sorts of light. Bit by bit, I figuring out how to photograph and present my work in a more interesting manner.

Creative work does not happen in a vacuum. But we are not always aware of who is helping us along, neither are we willing to admit it. I don't know a thing about Paola from Barcelona. She is just one of many anonymous collaborators whose work is giving me just the little boost I need to get more daring about my presentations skills.

Paola is the shadow merchant, mysterious, timely, talented. I appreciate and need her.

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