Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Light is God

And God is light. At least, so say many religious folks. And on this subject, I happen to agree with them.

As a photographer, light is everything. It is our God. It is the brush we paint with and the altar at which we pray. It conveys so much! Quite often--more so with people photography--it is the one, single, element of our work that makes our images shine. (Pun intended.)

Light embellishes the story within our images like nothing else: Sometimes with subtlety and nuance, other times quite obviously and with great drama.

If you are a serious photographer and you're not praying at the altar of light, you'll be hard pressed to rise above snapshot-taking status. Sure, it's important to know your camera gear--how to use it and wield it like the photo-equivalent of a Samurai warrior--but knowing your gear and knowing how to use it is only part of the battle. The road to photo-Nirvana is the path of light.

I know I'm sounding like a zealot. And I suppose I am something of a zealot when it comes to the subject of light. Yeah, I spend a fair amount of time keeping up with what's new in the world of photography. And I spend even more time learning how to use the tools of our trade, be it gear or processing software or whatever. But in my heart, I know it's all about the light.

When I was a kid, about ten or eleven, my right eye was seriously injured. It resulted in me having to wear patches over both eyes for months. When your blind for a substantial amount of time, you really learn to appreciate your sight. And you realize, after being deprived of it for some time, that light is everything and darkness sucks. It was soon after this injury--while still having to wear a patch over my right eye for about another year--that my Dad bought me my first camera: a Yashica Penta J, 35mm SLR.

Man, talk about an eye-opening experience! (Not just the return of my eye-sight but the sudden appearance of a camera in my life.)

Suddenly, once again, I could see the world around me. And now, I could capture what I was seeing! As I learned to wield my new, world around me capturing tool, I quickly realized that it was all about the light. Few things, besides photography or (admittedly, though not recommended) temporarily losing your sight, will make you so keenly aware of the light that envelopes our lives.

Okay. I'm done preaching and acting like a Zen-hole. Here's some practical advice: Quit drooling over every new iteration of a camera these companies keep coming out with. You say you're a pretty girl shooter and you've got some spare dough to spend? Spend it where it will do the most good, leastwise in terms of improving your people-shooting skills and knowledge. Spend it on lighting gear. And if you don't have much to spend and can't afford those Hensel or Broncolor lighting instruments, a high-priced beauty dish or that big, super-duper, Chimera softbox, or even an extra Alien Bee to toss into your lighting arsenal, spend it on simpler, inexpensive tools-- Reflectors and modifiers and things that control the light. Then learn how to use this cheap and simple gear. Take the Dean Collins test and use one light source and begin adding reflectors and white cards and flags and panels to make that one light seem like many. Once you can pass that test, repeatedly, your ready to begin adding more tech-gear to your camera and lighting armory.

The pretty girl at the top, almost posing like Venus standing in that big scallop shell, is Charlotte. Three lights--one in front of her and two behind her--as well as some modifiers, reflectors, and controllers, were employed capturing the image. I think those freckles of her's are pretty damn cute. MUA was Lillian. The garish eye makeup was, uhhh... someone else's idea. As a side-note, no gobos were used or injured in the production of this image. And, once again, resolution and image artifacts courtesy of Google.


JP said...

Wow! Charlotte is gorgeous!

"Please sir. I want some more"

Anonymous said...

I forget where I read it, but one of my favorite photography quotes is:

"All photographs are photographs of light. The subject just gives the light something to bounce off of."

Or something like that. Anyway, the sentiment is spot on even if my memory isn't.