Sometimes I see the light


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Sometimes I see the light

28 Apr 2021 6:45AM   Views : 352 Unique : 248


Hereís one of the ideas that came from a short blog the other day. Itís about seeing the light, by which I mean recognising beautiful light, and then working out how to use it. For me, in my normal photographic mode, that means seeing when the studio lights are giving a particularly striking effect, and sometimes fine-tuning it. For a landscape photographer, itís often about anticipation Ė and then itís about patience.
Good light is partly a state of mind: there are days when the light level is low and the shadows seem empty, but I wonder if thatís just in my headÖ A grey day means low contrast, so that subtle things show in an image, though you may have to seek them out with the contrast slider when you process the pictures.


So good light isnít the whole story: sometimes, thereís work to do in editing, and you will need to be able to recognise the potential, or you wonít shoot the image. That takes us into the territory that Ansel Adams staked out with the word Ďprevisualisationí Ė the ability to visualise the finished picture, and a mental plan for getting from the scene to the final print. To get to this, you will need to spend time blundering around processing, filters, effects and the rest, so that you can see a scene or person and decide that you need to expose carefully for the shadows, then increase contrast, convert to mono, and add colour toning.


I love the dark grey sky after a storm, when the sunshine makes the fresh-washed landscape sparkle even more because of the contrast with the dark sky Ė itís worth pausing and maybe darkening it further with a some burning in, or even a levels adjustment layer and a mask. And in the studio, I have a lot of fun with low key work. Sometimes, good light is simply a matter of angle rather than precisely what softbox or reflector you use. (I get excellent mileage from a beauty dish of around twenty inches diameter.)


Rim lighting always looks great when you spot itÖ Beware, though Ė you may find that you blow the highlights if you donít apply some exposure compensation, and that usually spoils the effect. Definitely shoot RAW and go from there, so that you can choose whether to have dead black or velvety shadows behind.


Catastrophe theory isnít far away from spectacular light: you need to notice the difference between the effect of high noon sunlight on weathered metal and wood. and the results with a human face (disastrous selfie attached: testing an IR remote) and put together your mental little black book of good and bad combinations.

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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
28 Apr 2021 6:46AM
Some days, the light is there, waiting for you. Most of the images here were taken in pretty quick succession on a walk along the canal.

whatriveristhis Avatar
28 Apr 2021 8:13AM
I'd say that "good" light isn't an absolute. Good light for an open landscape, strong enough to give shadows that would help to divide the space in interesting ways, rim lighting, or other dramatic effects, could make woodland photography very challenging, and would often ( though not always ) be useless for a flower close-up, just as flat light with no shadows wouldn't usually flatter a landscape. So it's important to be flexible and work with the light, choosing a subject for which the prevailing light is appropriate.
saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.5k 88 Norway
28 Apr 2021 9:01AM

Quote:So it's important to be flexible and work with the light, choosing a subject for which the prevailing light is appropriate.

Totally agree with this.
I tend never to go out looking for a subject and hoping that the light is good when I find what I am looking fro, rather I go out thinking let's see what today's light can offer in the way of potential subjects which benefit from that particular light. This is especially essential for my style of photography, where everything ends up in b&w with the emphasis on areas of shadow and light...
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
28 Apr 2021 4:25PM
Wisdom from both Alan and Malc...

I mentioned state of mind to cover the days when I simply can't see anything that looks good in the light: and I heartily agree with the idea of finding the right subject for the light as it is. I've seen so many pictures of great landscapes in the wrong light. Rather fewer instances, perhaps, of the light making a mediocre scene wonderful... Excepting the occasions when the picture is so well done that the mediocre scene doesn't seem to be there.

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