Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Seeking Beautiful Light

If the goal is an attractive, reality-based photograph, two things are pretty much universally required:

1. a serviceable subject

2. good light

I use the completely subjective adjective good advisedly. As for serviceable, I would argue that although you generally will want something to stand out as as subject, as a focus for the viewer's attention, and while finding a subject that a viewer might feel is beautiful will improve the prospects of that viewer responding to your finished image as beautiful, in spite of all of that I say that what you (I) as a photographer most want - must have - for success is good, beautiful light on the scene. Almost anything can function as a subject, and the focus can almost become the behavior and quality of the light itself.

This afternoon after a rainfall, I saw what I thought was interesting light developing outside. I ran inside for a camera, knowing from experience that the quality wouldn't last long. What could I find nearby for a subject? Not a lot. A few fallen branches, fallen leaves and clinging drops of water.

The four photos here are a kind of progression from "ok, that gets some color and depth from the slant of light and reflection off the moisture" through "ooh, that makes a nice design from this exact angle, and look at the texture in the leaf!" to finally feeling I'd caught a little of the magic I was seeing in the light. The last photo is just leaves, water and light, nothing inherently prettier than the ingredients of the first three, but I think there is a sense of fantasy in it. I enjoyed my minutes outside amid the play of light, and now I can relive some of the joy. Perhaps you can catch some of it too. I hope so.

Permalink: http://jilcp.blogspot.com/2014/01/seeking-beautiful-light.html


  1. Oh, Jess -- just stunning! And as usual, I can't decide which I like better, the photographs or the accompanying narrative. Well done on both fronts!

  2. Oh, I love love love the last photograph, how beautiful and fantastic, indeed!! And yet, there is a painful, ugly side to it too which, I think brings depth to the photo - the leaf is damaged, torn, and cut and yet, nestled delicately by the fir tree and surrounded by a dreamy world. I like the first photo, too. Did you use tilt shift stuff?

    1. We've had some bouts of harsh weather, and I think you're exactly right that showing some of the effects on natural objects is an underlying theme of these photos.

      No tilt or shift in these shots. They were all done with a telephoto lens (300mm) from distances in the 7-8 foot range. That combination of "intimate" subject size with somewhat distant perspective is what results in the characteristic look.


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