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on Feb 28, 2013 in Landscape Photography

How Much Light do You Need?

Grand Canyon 4559

Have you ever noticed how moths can find even the smallest drop of light in the night? Ever wonder how they do that (or why?)? I do especially when they are buzzing about bugging me. But I don’t really think we’re much different, other than we don’t have wings. We seem to gravitate to light just like moths, but I think at times we miss the smallest, simplest light in favor of the big, bright light. This past week in Grand Canyon, I once again thought about how much light we really need?

I’m not talking exposure here, don’t want to step on that land mind. Rather, I’m talking about in the overall scheme of our image, how much of the scene, subject, story needs to have light on it? Can we make do with the smallest possible amount and still have a successful photograph? I want to propose that ya, we can be successful with the smallest amount of area lit. Why?

With the mind’s eye going to light and bright first, does it take much to trigger this response? I think when the overall scene is dark, then no, the smallest amount will do. And when you add to that color, texture, sharpness and some other elements, how can the mind’s eye help but latch onto that spot, instantly? Then if all of is true, how much light do YOU need?

Read a good book lately, a mystery perhaps? Was the book really good because the author didn’t put everything on the table at once? You had to continue to read to get all the pieces so you could get to the light at the end of the tunnel. What if you incorporated this same communication technique in your photograph?

Rather than going and lighting everything, perhaps try adding more shadows, mystery to your photograph using just a dabble of light strategically placed. This is an example of what I’m talking about. The morning sun just peeked through a hole in the morning clouds. It was raining so the beam of light was displayed in the falling rain until it smacked into the temple and lit it up. Making the photo took no more than realizing that this was all the light the photograph needed. Anymore light and the beam would disappear and the small degree of detail lost in a sea of information. So next time you’re out shooting, be it with ambient light or flash, ask yourself as you peer through the viewfinder, “How much light do you need?”