Photography and Light: the Magic and the Mystery

Sago palm fronds, 2012. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Sago palm fronds, early morning, 2012. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

For a photographer, is there anything more magical or fundamental to our work than light? Light, in all its myriad forms: it’s at the heart of all that we do. I was thinking about how much I love the pursuit of this light: gaining a true sensitivity to light determines how far you will develop as a photographer.

There’s dawn light….up early before daybreak is one of my favorite times. There’s mystery and darkness and the hints of what’s to come, always a surprise. I go out and take my chances, sometimes successful, sometimes not, but always gratified by the journey of discovery that early morning shooting trips entail.

Fishing shed at dawn, 2011. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Fishing shed at dawn, 2011. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

The challenge of midday light…not my favorite time to shoot, but one that we should all figure out how to deal with as photographers As a newspaper photographer for many years, I learned long ago that many things have to be photographed when the subject is available, not when the light might be best. Learning how to deal with this will improve your understanding of light all round. (See How to Light Absolutely Anything for more on this.)

Midday light supplemented with an off-camera speedlight using a Gary Fong Collapsible Lightsphere.  Canon 70-200mm lens @ 70mm,  1/250th sec @ f2.8, ISO 200. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Midday light supplemented with an off-camera speedlight using a Gary Fong Collapsible Lightsphere. Canon 70-200mm lens @ 70mm, 1/250th sec @ f2.8, ISO 200. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

The romance of late afternoon/evening light…Another great time to shoot. Light late in the day warms up considerably due to the extra atmosphere that the sun is pushing through to reach us, creating all of those wonderful reds and oranges and purples that we  love.  Patience is the key here: stick around after you think you’ve gotten the shot, wait and see how the afterglow looks. Sometimes it’s the best light of all.

Breakwater Twilight, 2011. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Breakwater Twilight, 2011. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

The eerie beauty of moonlight…I’ve written about shooting by moonlight before and if you haven’t tried it, you should! It’s definitely different: exposures tend to become exceeding long, necessitating some type of timer and digital cable release. These are dream photos, things that will tweak your subconscious in surprising ways.

Lampost by moonlight, 2011. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Lampost by moonlight, 2011. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

So spend some time simply looking. Watch the light, watch how it can change in its play upon an object from one moment to the next.  Become sensitized to small variations in light. And then pick up your camera and translate this awareness into some unique and powerful photographs!

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: Inspire

About the Author:

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

Post a Comment