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on Feb 14, 2013 in Wildlife Photography

Great Light or Great Moment?


As photographers, we seek that great light. And many of the great photographs we enjoy, one of the first comments is, “great light!” And one of the first comments made when a photograph doesn’t measure up is, “bad light.” And yet, some of the historically most important photographs we treasure weren’t shot in the best light but rather, the best moment. I think that raises the question which is more important when you have to make the choice, great light or great moment? I pose this question because I think many sacrifice the great moment thinking they can only shoot in the great light. Here’s the funny thing about wildlife, sporting events, aviation, and whole bunch of life, they don’t read the same material we do and know to only perform in the great light. So what happens when great light takes a back seat? Will your photography suffer?


I’m not giving you a reason to shoot in bad light. I am giving you a reason to get out when others might say the light sucks looking for that great moment. This Wood Stork is such an example. It’s becoming that time of year in the south, the birds and the bees thing and it’s when critters do there thing whenever they want. To get it on film, you gotta be out there with them. Joe McNally quotes a photographer, a quote now used by many in it’s short form that might help. In a nutshell, you want an interesting photograph, stand in front of something interesting. In that quote, light is not mentioned. In this example the Wood Stork in not so good light but for showing off the glow in its black feathers, it’s great light. If you know that than being at the rookery when the light is great for that one great moment rather than the overall photograph might be worth while. But then while there for that shine in the black you get it in a moment of passion, well then the great moment grows. The something interesting being rather just some primary feathers is a leading lines up to a bigger moment. Ya, we should seek the great light with the great moments there is no doubt, the reason we get up early and stay out late. But in those hours in between, I want to encourage you to not hang up your cameras but rather, look for just the great moments. Photography is this funny thing, it happens whenever you’re behind the camera. It’s just the images when end up sharing are from the great moments.

Shot with the D4 with 600VR2 with TC-20e3