Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Are You Fluent in Light?

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As most of you know, the word "photography" means writing with light. Okay. Some people say it means, "painting with light." Whatever. You say tomahtoe, I say tomaytoe. If you're a "painting with light" advocate, cut me some slack for a few so I can write this update. Pretty please? Indulge me for a moment or two and go with "writing with light" as being the word's meaning.


Okay. As I said, the word "photography" means writing with light. As such, are you fluent in light? I'm guessing many of you are fluent. Perhaps not fluent like it's your natural language but fluent enough to use light to write, I mean make some decent photos. I'm that way. Fluent enough, I mean. But I have my limitations. It's much like my Italian-speaking skills.  I can order food in Italian in an Italian restaurant, but I can't hold a conversation with someone in Italian.   English, yes. Italian? Nope.

Even if I could speak Italian fluently like my Dad, my grandparents, and many of my aunts and uncles could, it wouldn't necessarily mean I could hold conversations with all Italian-speaking people. How so? Because there are those things called dialects.

Dialects make some Italian speakers sound almost like they're talking another language to various other Italian speakers.  My Dad, who was fluent in Italian, make that fluent in the kind of Italian that Italian-Americans who emigrated from the Naples, Italy, region speak, had a really hard time speaking with Italians (in Italian) when he visited Rome later in his life. Why? Dialects.

Lighting is like that. It's one thing to be fluent in lighting, leastwise to believe you're fluent in lighting until you start looking at other kinds of lighting or light for genres outside of genres you have lots of experience shooting. It's sort of like trying to speak with another dialect you're unfamiliar with. I can write fluently with light in the glamour model dialect.  I can do so like a pro. But now, I'm planning to expand my photography to some other genres and, in order for me to write with light like a pro in those other genres, I'm going to have to become familiar writing with it in another light-writing dialect. I'm talking figuratively, of course. Light is light, after all. Leastwise, a lot of people keep saying that. But how you use light, make that how you write with light, sometimes changes from one genre to another.

Extending my pretty girl shooter light-writing skills to outdoor photography, for instance, is going to require learning another dialect of light. The more I read, learn, and study the art of outdoor photography, e.g., landscapes, seascapes, cityscapes, nature, etc., the more I realize I barely know jack about writing with light when capturing that sort of imagery.  Sure, I'm fluent writing with light when shooting models. It's  much the way my Dad was fluent in Italian, but his fluency didn't mean he could easily converse with all Italians. He could converse with them in basic sort of ways, but he often told me it was difficult speaking with a variety of other Italians because of differences in dialects.  It's the same with photography. In order to write with light in all genres, that is to write poetically, dramatically, or in most any other way, it requires understanding other lighting dialects.

You see, when I finally get out there shooting the sorts of outdoor photographs I'm interested in shooting, it's going to be, for the most part, the first time I've ever done so. I may not be a beginner, photography wise, but I'll be a beginning outdoor photographer nonetheless. How I write with light when shooting models is more than a little different from how I'll need to write with light shooting outdoorsy pics, assuming I expect to make some pretty good outdoor photos... which I hope to do.

But that's okay! In fact, it's better than okay. It's terrific! It's going to be all new adventures with my cameras and I love new adventures. It's also going to be fraught with new challenges that might make my images suck! At first, at least. But that's what's going to make it fun and exciting. I'll have to learn to look at things with new eyes, things like light, because writing with light for outdoor images is a whole different thing than writing with light with a model in front of your camera. I'll have to train myself to see the light differently-- almost the way a child sees their newly discovered world; a world where, for them, everything is new.

Now, I just need to get my ass out there and start doing it... start learning-by-doing with the new writing-with-light dialect I've been studying. I'm running out of excuses. I've pretty much put together all the gear I'll need, some of it quite different from the gear I regularly use shooting pretty girls. Now, it's simply a matter of turning my motivation into action.

By the way, I've been doing a lot of reading about outdoor photography lately -- web pages, tutorials, books, etc. -- including sub-genres like long exposure and night-time and low-light outdoor photography. That's my style in terms of how I learn new things. I tend to be someone who does a bunch of reading and researching before doing. In fact, I just started reading a new book today. It's called "The Art of Outdoor Photography" by Boyd Norton.

I have to say, this book resonated with me in big ways from the first few pages. Probably because it's equal parts photo-philosophy and photo-technique. That's the sort of approach that appeals to me most.  The book isn't for beginners -- the sub-title is "Techniques for the Advanced Amateur and Professional" --  but if you're interested in outdoor photography and you already have the basics of photography tucked under your belt, I recommend Boyd Norton's book. It's copyright is 1993 so it's pre-digital but that doesn't matter. So much of photography is the same, film or digital. Obviously, being pre-digital, there's no lessons in it regarding digital post-processing, but that's okay with me. At this point, I'm way more interested in learning to shoot this outdoor stuff, shoot it like a boss of course. I'll worry about processing what I shoot later on. Again, that's how I roll.

The pretty girl at the top is Madison. I must admit, while writing with light to produce images of Madison, my quill wasn't drooping. She's a very sexy woman in all ways! ISO 100, f/10 at 125th with a Canon 5D1 and a Tamron 28-75 zoomed all the way in. Three lights: My main, camera-right about head-high or so, modified with a 5' Photoflex Octo angled slightly downwards, plus a couple of small-ish shoot through umbrellas, either side, from the sides.

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