background image

Significato Journal
Subscribe to our FREE E-Newsletter!
 
Normal Version Print Version

Seeing the Light - Part One

~ Part 1: The Quality of Light ~

Aug 18, 2013
Maureen Spagnolo

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
~ Henry David Thoreau ~

Sunset - A spring view of San Francisco from Oakland, California. The light creates warm colors.
Sunset - A spring view of San Francisco from Oakland, California. The light creates warm colors.

Photography is personal. It's about our viewpoint and vision - which are unique.

A scene captures our attention. We frame it, set the exposure, focus, and shoot. The cool thing with digital cameras is that we can immediately see the image we've shot, and thus we can tweak the camera's settings a bit, and, shoot again if the exposure is not correct.

Sunrise - A fall view of Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. The mist hangs onto the light creating drama.
Sunrise - A fall view of Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. The mist hangs onto the light creating drama.

Other times, although the scene is appealing, perhaps the light is not, and we must return at another time of the day to get the most interesting shot. The “right” light is the key to a successful image.

You may have heard photographers talk about “the magic hour” - which is essentially the hour or so on each side of sunrise and sunset when the light is golden, and when textures, shadows and colors are warm and vivid.

A soft, misty, early morning light on Washington Cathedral - a great light for portraits.
A soft, misty, early morning light on Washington Cathedral - a great light for portraits.

We forgo precious sleep in the quest to capture early morning light, which is a bit cooler than the much stronger golden-orange that falls on a landscape an hour before sunset, although both are sought after by shooters.

Weather also affects the quality and color of light, especially inclement weather when the clouds are ominous, and perhaps when a beam of light escapes through a gap in the clouds creating drama in a landscape.

An interesting evening - winter light breaking through cloud cover, Cumberland, Maryland. Taken from car.
An interesting evening - winter light breaking through cloud cover, Cumberland, Maryland. Taken from car.

An overcast day can be perfect for shooting portraits, as it provides a soft, delicate light that is flattering to a subject. Quite the opposite effect happens on a sunny day when the sun is overhead, which can create harsh and often undesirable shadows on a subject's face.

Pay attention to the changes of light throughout the season. The low-angled winter sun creates a very different effect from the high summer sun. The clarity of spring or fall light creates lovely hues for photographing nature. Light plays a major role in creating the mood of an image.

A dramatic shot of fall trees on I-68, highlighted by a sunbeam of light through the clouds.
A dramatic shot of fall trees on I-68, highlighted by a sunbeam of light through the clouds.

A useful exercise is to choose a scene near your home, and make a point to shoot that exact same scene at different times of the day throughout the year. This will help you to gain knowledge that few photographers have regarding light. When we learn how to see, and use light to our best advantage, we create more outstanding “wow!” images, and we become masters of light.

Maureen Spagnolo is a photographer, living in Washington, DC. She writes on a variety of social issues in addition to her photography articles.

Her passion for photography began in her twenties when she fell in love with a photographer, and then took her first photography class. She used any camera she could get her hands on - until she got her first DSLR camera several years ago. Since then, she has gone gangbusters - taking photos like a junkie (!) and reading everything about photography she could find. She now owns enough (never enough!) cameras, lenses, tripods, and camera paraphernalia to warrant an add-on to her home owner's insurance.

Yet, photography is not about equipment. It's about passion, and seeing - qualities that can turn a cell phone into a tool which can compete with the most expensive camera.

Did you like what you read?

If so, leave a Tip, below, and join the ranks of our Renaissance Patrons!
>> Read More about becoming a Renaissance Patron

Standard
Patron
Contribution

Select Amount on the Next Page

Recurring Patron
Contribution


Select a Monthly Amount from the
DropDown List Below


Recurring Patron Levels



(Comments are moderated and must be approved.)
comments powered by Disqus

More Headlines of Interest

“The Epiphany of Zebediah Clump”
Watch our first film right here.
logo
Feel good about life and feed your soul some vittles...
from the columns and essays of Significato.
Transport your soul...
by curling up with a short story or poem.
Increase your bliss and nourish your soul...
with tidbits on nature, music, books, films, health and writings from bygone days.
Feel good about life...
Become a Significato Journal Renaissance Patron
Programming
Liquid Web Dedicated Servers
Help end child hunger