Saturday Evening Post #165: The Magic of Light

Light and Lighting has always fascinated me.

There is something primitive or primordial about sitting on the beach quietly watching the sun rise over the horizon. Some mornings it’s cold and misty, others warm and dusty. Sunsets have always posed a photo challenge that I’ve been ready to accept.
I once nearly fell of a bridge on to a railway line (as the train passed underneath, to add bonus points), just to get the right viewpoint of the sun setting behind a greater bridge—fortunately I had the sense of balance to save the long lens that I’d borrowed and instead of going over the railing, I managed to fall back on to the road behind.  No damage to the lens fortunately, and only a small dent in my pride.
Needess to say I didn’t make the image and contented myself with the safer option of photographing both bridge and sun separately and them combining the in a multi-slide montage. (This was way before the concept of digital photography was even dreamed of)

Over the centuries our theories of light have changed dramatically. Often shrouded in myth and legend, guess work and hypotheses, what light was and how it emanated.  Ibn al-Haytham in Arabia, around 950AD, to described the model of how light reflects from objects and it is recieved by the human eye.  At about the same time the Arab scientists invented the ‘pin-hole camera’.

Yet despite our basic understandings we tend to take light for granted.
However as photographers we need to do more than take it for granted. We have to perceive the many nuances of light.  More than just the rising and setting of the sun, the quality, the colour and the mood all play an important element of our work as photographers.

In all its incredible, complex and subtle variations.

Not only does it control shape, tone, texture, contrast and depth, it does, by its very gracing of our subject, add its own special Quality.

A quality that transcends the subject alone and has its own impact on the story-telling ability of the photograph.

Hard to describe in words, yet wonderful to behold when in a moment of sheer magic it happens.

That, I guess is what continues to fascinate me.
Studio controlled light has  its own special feel, as my early tutor said, “We keep on adding light until we’ve taken away all the shadow we need to.  Then we stop.”
Working outdoors, the universe sneaks up on me providing its own spectacular light-show. So much so that sometimes I’m so overawed that I forget to press the shutter.
A condition for which I’m confident there is no cure.  Each time brings its own magic