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



8 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #165: The Magic of Light

  1. A wonderful discussion, David! Light is to photography what wind is to sound. Every mentor in sound refers to catching the wind, sometimes harsh, sometimes soft but, like light, we need to know it and appreciate it and capture it!
    A wonderful image of the Osprey (Eloise?) with a meal! You have captured the light wonderfully!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, from the old old files
      Came across my old school Physics text book, you might have had one as well, Martin and Conner. The third volume was devoted to sound and optics. (You can see why it survived the sands of time.)
      I think a blog next week on the book is quite likely.



  2. Great insights into light David, and so well delivered, thanks for renewing my appreciation of light and how we use it. Wonderful capture love the way the Osprey appears naturally to be lit underneath, which is usually where the darker portions are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ashley, Well noted. It is not a twist of nature, or some special bending of light that I do in my spare time.
      She is coming up out of a river to a tree that is higher than the bank I’m standing on. The early morning light is running pretty much horizontally over the river bank edge.
      Had it been an hour or so later, then the wings would have been in shadow.
      Hope that helps

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “The critic asks: ‘And what, sir, is the subject matter of that painting?’ – ‘The subject matter, my dear good fellow, is the light.”
    — Claude Monet

    Your interesting essay immediately reminded me of Monet’s enduring fascination with light and the way it changes how we see objects. The image of the Osprey is wonderful with the low sunlight catching her wings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Eleanor, thank you for that quote by Monet.
      I’ve read about his garden, and how it was designed to make the most of the light, and as his eyesight failed, the shapes and colours from the light were his subject. Fascinating.
      Mr An Onymous and I went to the Monet exhibition a couple of years back, and the wonderful quotations spread through the gallery really inspired me.
      They also in some ways illustrated the various chapters of his life.
      Everytime I see a little bridge over lilies I do get a little emotional. 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed Eloise one more time

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello David, I saw your comment over on aussiebirders blog and guessed you to be a photographer and have the birding bug in you as well. I enjoy reading his post and seeing all the photos of birds from his area. Always a new bird for me to see on his page. I have not fallen off a bridge, yet, but I understand what you are saying. 🙂 photography and nature is my passions as well. Have a wonderful day.

    Liked by 1 person

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