Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

Prairie Sunrise

Prairie Sunrise
Prairie Sunrise

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's all about the light

One question about photography I am often asked is…What do you look for when you are out photographing?  Most of the time, I do not look for anything specific.  Instead, what I look for is a situation that generates a mood or feeling.  Mood or feeling is determined by the light…not the quantity of light, but the quality of light.

A common mistake that a lot of people make in their photographic attempts is to place their emphasis on the wrong thing.  They tend to concentrate on the object or place in the mistaken belief that the object or place alone will generate a great photograph, without really understanding it’s not the object that matters at all.  It’s how you use light to capture the quality of that moment.

Places like the Grand Canyon or New England in the fall certainly possess a tremendous amount of potential to capture some great photographs.  But for a moment, just think about the most awe inspiring images you might have seen from those areas.  More than likely, those images were taken during a moment of exceptional lighting conditions.

You see, light is the key ingredient in a photograph.  It really doesn’t matter what your subject is.  With great light, simple ordinary things can become wonderful photographic moments. 

So, what is great light?  That is not so easy to define.  It is like trying to define great music.  A lot of the definition depends on who is listening or who is looking.  The way I define great light is like this: The light you see that falls way outside of the ordinary.  It is light that takes ordinary moments, and turns them into extraordinary memories by adding character and uniqueness to the object or location.

I really like warm soft light, the kind of light that is most often found early or late in the day.  It doesn’t necessarily mean a sunrise or sunset, but the light that is generated during those times often floods the surrounding area with soft warm light.  Also, many times where there is a contrast of light can also generate great opportunities.  Things like very cool or bluish light contrasting with very warm yellow or red light is a great time to capture extraordinary moments.  And, don’t overlook overcast days.  The soft gray light found during those moments is some of the best mood light you can use.

The point I am trying to make is simply this.  Don’t just settle for ordinary snapshots under flat or harsh light.  When you are photographing, think in terms of mood and feeling…and always think in terms of quality of light.

Keith Bridgman

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