Chasing the light!

Developing the stronger image series…

Time to get back to the developing the stronger image series!  In this blog I want to consider light.  Most of my friends think I am obsessed with light, but it is probably the most important factor in producing great photographs.

We all know about the “golden hour” so I won’t go on about that.  One of my failings is not getting up early enough to catch morning light, but on the occasions when I have I have been rewarded.  Like many others I am guilty of paying more attention to camera kit and not enough attention to the craft and skills required to produce great photographs.  Learning about light conditions and weather patterns will lead you to taking stronger images.

Just to prove the point I have trawled over my images and selected a few where the quality of the light has made all the difference.

Technical Data: 1/60 second @ f2.8, 500 ISO, 55mm. Time November 08.29am.

Despite a lot of hidden shadow detail this image has layers of depth, I could have brought detail back into the shadows but it would have been a mistake to do so.

Technical Data: 1/50 second @ f2.8, 1250 ISO, 70mm. Time October 18.04pm

In this image I exposed for the sky and left the ruins of Dunluce Castle in complete darkness.

Technical Data: 1/60 second @ f2.8, 1000 ISO, 55mm. Time November 08.35am.

In this image taken from Ballintoy Harbour I exposed more for the sky.  The sea has picked up the hue cast by the sky and the clouds are nicely exposed.

Technical Data: 1/125 second @ f22, 400 ISO, 24mm. Time August 20.01pm.

The first three images were taken either before the sun rose or after it set, in the image the sun has not set but is low in the sky as can be seen by the shadows in the foreground.  The quality of the light as it reflects in the middle distance makes the image.

Technical Data: 1/160 second @ f11, 200 ISO, 75mm. Time July 20.07pm.

This image was caught by chance, the lighting of the mature tree in the middle distance is spectacular and the rainbow sets the finishing touch.  These type of images are not planned, they happen!  Its all down to the climatic conditions.

Technical Data: 1/80 second @ f18, 200 ISO, 42mm. Time February 16.12pm.

The month of February can produce great lighting conditions, the atmosphere is clear and crisp.

The above photographs were taken with a hand held camera.  In truth I should use a tripod which would enable me to use much slower exposure settings which would produce different photographic qualities, so I have made a promise to myself that I will use a tripod more often.  Also using a tripod, apart from stability, allows you to slow down, think more and experiment.  It pays not to be hurried when taking photographs, although your wife might not agree!

Finally, do send me feedback on the points I have made, whats your experience?

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

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2 thoughts on “Chasing the light!

  1. I agree with you about light. I love the light in the rainbow photo. When you get sun and those heavy clouds, the light is so dramatic too. Great landscapes. And I shall use your tip of exposing for the sky.

  2. Oh My, what great shots, especially like the fishing boats.

    I agree with what you say about light.

    Yes, there are a host of other factors, but it seems that in many cases, it is the light that first causes the head to turn. At some point, and based on a comment from another photographer, I started to appreciate and see what subtle differences there were in the lighting that falls across most scenes.

    I guess photographers get all this, but, in a previous life I was a construction engineer, and light was light. If you were placing concrete at 5am or at 2 pm, the object is to get the stuff into the formwork, and the eye compensated for whatever light was there. I mean, that is what the eyeball is made for, right?

    Once I turned to photography, I had this same ignorance, ( forgive me father for I know I sinned) and all this golden hour stuff was lost on me. Yes, I knew about not taking portrait shots in the midday sun, but still, all this talk about different “kinds” of light was confusing. I mean, light in November being “different” than light in August??? Bahh Humbug.

    I first became aware of light after another photographer made a comment to “shoot the light, not the scene”, meaning that it is the play of light and the interplay of the light with the objects in the frame that is so important.

    Step 2 of my photographer’s discovery was when I started taking digital images of low light construction projects and began to notice that some of my images had these dark streaks across the frame. At first, I though something was wrong with the camera, but then realized that the camera ,because of its circuitry, was actually picking up (and accentuating) the shadow areas. Being the engineer, and having a son that was a physics major and who knew about the physics of vision and neural processing that goes into what the brain “creates” as the “seen” image, I was astounded to discover that if I looked closer at the actual object that I just shot, that those shadows indeed were actually there, and that even in the shadows, there were shadows! I would have insisted that there was no shadow or that it was just very very slight of a shadow. Thus it was that I was taught by mistake, to always try to see to the finished product as my camera would see things, not as my eye would see things.

    Along the lines of seeing things as my camera would see them, I was astounded that the state of information availability in photography as opposed to engineering, was such that it was only after much digging that I ferreted out the information that the human eye, and B/W film, can discern about 20 shades of grey between white and black, while a digital camera can grab only 5 and that all those subtle shadows are lumped together into simply black with a digital sensor!

    Once I got this understanding, things got easier and it even helped to be able to see how great shots would result if I have a castle in the foreground and an twilight sky in the background. For example, my eye would “see” the intricate stone detail and the window frames, and it would also see the twilight sky and think “ great shot”, but the photographer’s mind would see a nice twilight with nice light-to-dark shadings, with the entire castle being black – with NO stone or window detail – making for a really great shot. I guess then my job is to see what my eye sees, but also know what my camera sees. I am still learning.

    BTW – I also have “learned” that bright light and this lumping of shadow ranges into black can indeed create great images too. I guess I will be learning till I croak off!

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