The following is an abstract on light and seeing light and seeing light as a substance or volume. Written for StudentFilmMakers.com March 2021.
Light is all around us. We use light, we feel light, we create light, we use light that is already created. Sometimes we assume light and sometimes abuse light. When light is at its epic moment we appreciate light, sometimes with a raised eyebrow or smile & squint or a deep feeling of awesomeness.
Technically, light is a series of values that create shape, shadow, specular and diffusion. It is directional, ambient and reflective and in study we become proficient using light.
Nature of Light
Did you ever stop to notice the light, such as during a stellar sunset or sunrise when the sky becomes an amberish glow and everything seems to be solar pink all around? Or the cloud formation with the sun spreading spectacular colors after it has set behind the transitional horizon mixing in with twilight.
Have you ever noticed how magnificent someone looks during a candle lit dinner? The glow, ambience and even soft focus appearance can be affectionate. The same person in a lunch room with the florescent light creating deep shadows under the eyes and the emotion is quite different.
Light has an emotional quality by nature and for those of us who use light by asset in imaging find that it becomes a great challenge to emulate.
Why is that?
Light has it’s place with every perception or atmosphere. “Be the chip” I use to say referring to the sensor or film in the camera. What is the range the “chip” can see compared to our visual perception? The answer to that is one of the greatest challenges to becoming proficient in seeing the light that we “see” and interpreting it as or knowing how the chip will see that light.
How do we learn to see what the chip will see?
The first challenge is the difference in value and color. Our eyes are so forgiving when our view changes from daylight to tungsten, our color checker seems to be the same to our eyes but not the chip. And to me, the most challenging is how much value our eyes see compared to the chip. Ansel Adams and Fred Archer formulated the Zone System which allows one to use a light meter to read the values of a scene. Perhaps you use, or have seen a photographer using a red viewing filter to look at a scene, thus showing a closer proximity to the values that the chip will see. The long and short answer to this is experience and study, but experience is the greatest teacher.
Natures of Light
It will always be with me after spending years seeing, studying and properly using light. Somehow I never noticed it until one day driving down the highway as the sun set, suddenly I noticed the light in a way I’ve never noticed and it changed my life from that point. What was different was noticing the volume of the light itself. But even from there it took me years to realize what I had suddenly noticed and now, no mater what, it’s the volume of light that taught me to “see the light”.
Consider for just a moment that light is a volume of light waves and has direction and ambience. Similarly, water is a volume of matter and has a flow and stillness. A rather abstract comparison but the real similarity is volume.
Four natures of light. If you are having any issues learning to “see the light”, this may help you analyze what light quality has to offer, the 4 natures of light are specular highlight, diffused highlight, diffused shadow and a hard shadow that I refer to as “me and my shadow”. You will see at least 3 of these natures in every photograph.
There are three elements that create exceptional imaging. Light, composition and exposure. These are topographical elements that in harmony, create the mood, feeling, emotion with a story. Light has the greatest effect especially in conjunction with composition to reveal emotion.
Another three elements are within a mind set while creating an image, the subject, light and background. There it is again… Light! Now is when we use our greatest knowledge and experience to create. And this is when we can cross over to using our emotion to elevate our imagery.
What I mean to say is there is a time when we start to use our deep seated emotion to create imagery from within. Learn “how to” and then forget about it. That was from my fashion photography instructor back in the day. Use what you feel inside and go with it. That is emotion.