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on Feb 20, 2010 in Landscape Photography

How Do You See Light?

“How do you see light?” This is a question I get a lot, a lot! It’s such an incredibly great question, it’s quite a compliment and it’s one I always struggle with answering. Why? Light is this very tangible, untangible element that truly makes or breaks a photograph. “Seeing” light doesn’t come in a day, a week or even year, but feeling light is something you do right now and that’s where you need to start!

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We’ve got a storm coming in, that can only mean one thing, dramatic light. But it’s not a given that just because the weather is coming, you’ll be in the right place at the right time for the light. But knowing the light should be there and will be there is you chase it, that’s the start of your feeling the light. That’s where this whole thing begins. So in the photograph above, you might be saying something like, “You’ve got to be kidding me, in that you “felt” the light?” “Feels more like moose manure!” (a cleaned up version of bullshit.)

But the light is in the photograph, I could more then feel it when I framed it up. I knew for example I would be going to black and white. Look very closely, very closely! You can see small, simple yet dramatic variances in the construction of the clouds, the play of light on the various densities of the clouds. The light on the ridgeline, that one if obvious making it easier. That’s where you start to transition the feel to the visual when it comes to light. It’s when you start to make that move that your images start to communicate the drama with mere exposure compensation. The first big step in communicating light.

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You’re probably looking at the “before and after’ and saying something like, “I would never have seen that final result!” You can and you will if you don’t, it really just takes time. The process is complicated by the fact you have to feel it and see it at the point of capture to get all the ingredients captured and preserved. Then, you have to take that and combine it with finishing in post, finishing to bring out that feel for the light. Because that’s how you grab the viewer’s eye, when they too can feel the light.

Photo captured by D3s, 70-200VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film