Photography and Art

Thursday, November 1, 2007

It's the Light Stupid

In the last few months, Mike Johnston has been having angst about developing a photography style and I share his pain. There are lots of elements to a photographic style, but one of the most important ones is the use of light. Michael Reichmann writes about it in an essay entitled It's About Light and one's attitude to light is certainly something that influences personal style. Nearly everyone likes the light afforded by the dawn or the dusk. Some love the soft light when neutral white clouds cover the sky, yet allow the brightness of the sun to shine through. Devotees of super-saturated shots like bright sunlight. Each to his own.

On our Canadian thanksgiving week-end (more than a month earlier than the U.S. counterpart), my wife and I decided to go to the cottage to escape from the city and take in some beautiful northern Ontario scenery. As we drove up, late on a Friday evening, I was very conscious of having my camera bag in the car and was keenly watching the sunset to see if something good would happen. The conditions were promising. There were very interesting, scattered clouds and the sun kept poking through and illuminating the farmland that we travel through to get to cottage country. Unfortunately, the sun would come out for a few seconds and then disappear before I could pull over to take some photographs.

My wife was wondering what I was up to because I seemed preoccupied and, at one point, nearly killed us both by paying scant attention to a stop sign and nearly pulling out into oncoming traffic. Little did she know that I was stalking something IMPORTANT: a really good sunset shot.

Luckily, just as the sun was dropping towards the horizon, there was a chink in the cloud cover and a lovely orange ray of sunshine shot out almost parallel to the ground and lit up parts of the farmland all around us. I pulled over to the side of the road and started taking shots of the sun shining on houses and trees. Trish got caught up in the moment and started shouting instructions to capture the vivid scenes around us.

Here's what we saw:

In this case, it certainly is the light.

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