Magic Light

Dawn storm clouds on Lake Pontchartrain. Canon 16-35mm zoom lens @ 35mm, ISO 50, f16 aperture, 97 second exposure. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Dawn storm clouds on Lake Pontchartrain. Canon 16-35mm zoom lens @ 35mm, ISO 50, f16 aperture, 97 second exposure. Those are lightning bolts on the horizon. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

There are a lot of reasons that I like getting up and photographing so very early in the morning: it’s quiet and peaceful. There are fewer people about, if any at all. I find I can think with a level of clarity early, before my day gets crowded with all of the junk on my ‘To Do’ list. But the main reason, easily, is the quality of the light.

Light is the essence of everything we do as photographic artists, isn’t it? No light, no photograph. It’s a simple as that, really. But within that construct, early morning light has magical qualities that simply enchant me, getting me up out of bed in the dark day after day. It can be a complete surprise what I will find, even after so many early morning shooting trips.

This image is a great example of this fact. I was out walking along the water’s edge in near darkness, waiting for things to lighten enough to shoot.  I had a vague idea about an image I wanted to attempt, but nothing truly definitive lined up. Even in the early half light though, I could see that the clouds that were beginning to appear looked interesting.

Then I heard it: a deep, dark rumble out over the water! These were storm clouds! I repositioned myself and composed a version of this image, watching as the thunderheads began to be illuminated by the approaching dawn.

I began to shoot, long exposures on the tripod as I watched the light change. A hot breeze started to blow in from the approaching storm, making me glad I was in shorts and sandals. More exposures, more watching. The clouds were actually building and changing as they came closer to the shore, and lightning bolts began to shoot down in the distance. I shot and shot until the sun actually appeared, at which point it all went to mud: totally different light, clouds no longer interesting, etc.  The magic was gone.

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page or our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Gallery

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

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