It’s All About The Light

If you’ve followed my Tip of the Week on the OP website for a while, you’ve read the following words multiple times
Click Images To Enlarge This Article Features Photo Zoom

If you've followed my Tip of the Week on the OP website for a while, you've read the following words multiple times—It's All About The Light. If you've been with me on one of my nature photo tours, you undoubtedly heard me use the quote. If you've telepathically crawled inside my head, you've felt those words radiate through my brain. It's an expression I use often and for good reason. The art of photography is all about writing with light. The better or more dramatic the light, the more impressive the image. It's with this in mind that I want you to become familiar with the expression and heed the meaning of my words. After all, "It's all about the light!"

So what exactly do those title words mean? The way I look at it is I'd rather photograph a mundane subject in great light than a great subject in bad light. For instance, a majestic mountain shot on a dark, dreary and gray day nets a bland image due to the flat and boring light. Conversely, an ordinary, simple stretch of prairie with storm clouds and a gorgeous rainbow will elicit more oooohhhs and aahhhhs from viewers. Even though the subject matter in the first situation has more intrigue, given the poor lighting conditions, the image falls short.

In the first image that accompanies this article, the dramatic light occurred when a break in the clouds allowed the sun to briefly spotlight the pair of yuccas at sunset. Storm clouds to the east were ominous, and they took on a steel blue color. I got down low so the primary yucca pod appeared above the bright horizontal storm cloud. Lighting situations like this don't occur often. They're much more dramatic than if the same scene was shot with simple blue-sky background. I had to be careful in how I metered the composition. The dark clouds fooled the meter into thinking it needed a long exposure. A simple check of my histogram confirmed that a minus 1 stop setting prevented the red channel from over exposing the yucca pods and warm color on the dunes. When dramatic light unfolds, be sure to cover all bases, as you won't get a second chance. It's All About The Light ...

The direction of light is important to the success of the image. I much prefer sidelight to front light except for when I photograph wildlife. The angle and color of the light in the image of the flighted cattle egret is key to its success. The birds were headed to their roost for the night. The direction of wind along with the position of the sun both fell into place, as birds like to land into the wind. The warm directional light illuminated the wings and underside of the bird. The color of the setting sun enhanced the beak and orange crown on the egret. The warm blue sky along with some very subtle clouds provided a clean backdrop. It's nice when all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. When you encounter similar situations, take full advantage to get as many keepers as possible. It's All About The Light ...

In the final image, taken along the coast of Oregon, once again, the "lighting director" worked some overtime. A perfect set of clouds hovered above the sea stacks. The horizon where the sun was about to set was clear. Had there been clouds, the dramatic color wouldn't have unfolded. The color started slow and then all of a sudden erupted.
A receding wave allowed me to run into the surf to obtain an angle so as to not merge the sea stack on the left with the foreground rock. It's All About The Light ...


1 Comment

    You are completely correct. I went to Alaska last year for 2 weeks, and it rained almost every day. I had very few “good lighting” opportunities. It was so beautiful, yet I could not record the beauty on my sensor. Lightroom can only do so much. What an expensive bust. Unfortunately, the only way to get great photographs is to shoot often and be there when the light happens. Much harder when you have to work full-time as a non-photographer. Thanks for confirming my sentiments.

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