Light – It gets everywhere

I continue my journey into this new hobby full of expectation and verve. I am, however starting to realise that there is quite a bit more involved than I might have first considered. Before I crack on with today’s subject, I want to take a minute to reflect on what I have assimilated so far.

I got a camera, you know that, and have started to learn what all the different buttons do. I know where everything is, but certainly haven’t really figured out what to press when. Those pictures that aren’t stinkers are more a product of luck than judgement at the moment, one suspects.

There is also the relationship between Aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Whilst the concept is understood, it is going to be a while before I understand what to use when… Thank God cameras these days are bright enough to figure most of it out for you. As for Depth of field, white balance and histograms…. *shiver*

Then we have to understand composition. This is probably one of the few vaguely comfortable aspects for me. I get the theory and have a bit of experience in design, which helps. There is just the need to apply said knowledge to camera work and then practise, practise and practise.  The rule of thirds, the effect of horizontal, vertical and (dramatic) diagonal lines all make sense to me. Even triangles, space and balance, is just a case of application and thought… right?

Finally, once you have got the hang of all those, you still have to go out and find something interesting, unusual or unique to shoot. As if the rest wasn’t complicated enough.
THEN your all done, right?

Whitstable beach about 20 minutes before sunset

Oh no, THEN there is this little thing called “light”

Light; something that we all understand perfectly from the perspective that, without it we can’t see, plants die and you bump into stuff when you try and go somewhere without it.

What the hell it has to do with photography is something else entirely. Let me share a photographers secret with you right now:

Great light = potentially amazing photographs

You can absolutely nail all of the techniques, but if you don’t have great light then your photo will be average.

How do you get great light? As far as I can tell, one of 2 ways. You fork out a bloody fortune on super expensive lighting equipment, then spend 10 years learning to use it; or you go outside and wait for great light to find you.

And here is where we have a problem. I am not sure I quite understand what constitutes great light. There are of course rules; there always are. Apparently the best light is soft light, harsh shadows are bad, bright whites are bad, midday sun, is not only bad for your skin but pretty unhelpful to a photo as well.

The ideal time to find the best light is actually quite specific. You have an hour or so after sunrise, or an hour or so before sun set.

Let me make this clear, again, as I might well have mentioned this before. The best time to do photography are the hours of the day in which Phil SHOULD be either happily asleep or happily in the pub. Yup, I didn’t think this damn hobby through at all, did I!

Over the last week or so I have taken a couple of opportunities to get myself out walking during those times, “The golden hour” as they are called. I have been happily creating pictures that really are stinkers too.

The photos featured in this article are some examples of those walks. I will be talking in more detail about my experiences in the next update. In the meantime, feel free to browse through the latest batch of uploads in my PhotoStream.


2 responses to “Light – It gets everywhere”

  1. The Secret Poet avatar
    The Secret Poet

    >I am going to let you into my secret about photography: No such thing as 'bad' light, there is however, badly used light. Admittedly 'The Golden Shour' provides immediately dramatic and nice results but every great natural light photo was taken at varying times of day, normally under extremely adverse conditions.
    Photography is "Painting pictures with light" and that is any light that is to hand. I say, work with whatever you've got at the time, this makes you think quicker: "Indoor lighting, damn, raise the ISO, widen the aperture" or "woah! really bright! quick, stop down the aperture, slow down the ISO" etc etc. Then when you get a beautiful sunset or dusk light you'll suddenly go "pfft! hard shadows and coloured diffusion? Piece of cake!"
    Unless you are planning on being a studio photographer where you control EVERY facet of the shoot including light, that's the skill you'll need the most – to think on the fly.
    Look at Robert Frank and Cartier Bresson for how to adapt to ANY given situation. The quality of light is always good, just good for different photos.
    I'll shut up before I write an essay but a good lesson is to find the WORST possible light and take an 'okay' shot. You suddenly start appraising scenes very differently when you have the luxury of time and bright light.

  2. […] Having written previously on this subject, I won’t labour the point. Sadly all of us had commitments and were grabbing a couple of hours when we could. Bank holiday weekends are always busy, my parents have a shop to run and we all have social engagements coming out of our ears. The Day before Mike had been in Cardiff at the speedway championships, so there was no way he was getting up early. I had a cricket match to go to which would mean we couldn’t do sunset. I guess this will be something that can recur from time to time, so I will need to learn to work with what light is available. […]

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