photography is about photographing the light

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by jnanian, Apr 6, 2014.

  1. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i can't say how many times i have spoken with someone, or read what they said or wrote to me
    and they say " photography is about nothing except photographing the light "
    ===
    i was driving someplace this morning where i had to make a series of portraits and i looked out my window as i drove.
    i was on route 1 driving south along the coast .. it was between 8 and 9am and the sun was up and over the treeline and glaring off
    of the bay. the sun bathed the houses on my right as i drove south.
    ===
    are photographs taken with a flash, or long exposures on a grey day about the light, or is it only the drama that is about the light?
     
  2. chip j

    chip j Subscriber

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    Photographs are about objects/people in the light.
     
  3. snapguy

    snapguy Member

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    look

    We use dark and light as tools. The thing you have to do is "look at the light."
    Some people like to reduce everything to one snappy little saying. Life is more complex than that.
     
  4. frank

    frank Subscriber

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    Photography is about the light that bounces off of subjects.
     
  5. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Or goes through subjects.

    Or bends around subjects.
     
  6. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Light is essential to the process, but just a tool.

    We choose how to use it.
     
  7. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Subscriber

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    Photography is about whatever you want it to be about.
     
  8. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I've never been able to decide if that's a truism, a thoughtless cliche, or a piece of wisdom that I haven't grasped all the layers of yet. Smarter people and better photographers than I have said it, and I don't really have the hubris to say "I know better" to all of them. But really, what *do* people mean by it---those who don't just mean "I heard this somewhere and I think it makes me sound smart", that is?

    -NT
     
  9. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Most of my images are about the light reflecting off objects/landscape. Occasionally they are about light reflecting off the subject.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2014
  10. Nuff

    Nuff Member

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    For me, cameras are about capturing light. It's only one part of the big photography puzzle.
     
  11. mauro35

    mauro35 Member

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    I think light in itself would not make a great photograph, rather the interaction of the world around us with light is what interests me and what makes me point my camera somewhere. For me "photography is about the light" means that when I find something that interests me, like a landscape or an object, I am curious to discover the almost endless ways it can interact with different qualities of light and how this can affect the mood of the final image.
     
  12. momus

    momus Member

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    It's about getting a good image, as it's a visual medium. Great light is essential, and that sort of light is fleeting. I like to shoot on the fly, but Ansel Adams used to set up a landscape shot and then wait days for the magic light to appear, briefly. His patience shows in the work. With photography, you are generally stuck with what is in front of the lens and with the light that you have to work with. You can modify all that, to a point, but that's what it's about..... that unique little fraction of a second in time.
     
  13. MDR

    MDR Member

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    It's sort of a halftruth, the quality of light is essential to every photograph. The way an object looks when photographed is defined by the light. It's also true that we only capture light either direct or reflected. Photography after all means drawing with light.
    It's also true that people often overlook the quality and look of the light when they take a photograph.
    But it's not all there is to photography, composition, etc is still important one just shouldn't overlook the importance of light.
     
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  15. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Get a digital camera with which you can set the ISO to tens of thousands and you don't need light any more!


    Steve.
     
  16. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    Light is the key for all steps in traditional photography; whereas, for digital, its only needed for display.
     
  17. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    I would say that it's about shape and form, light is the catalyst.
     
  18. Drew B.

    Drew B. Subscriber

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    John, we'll all have to continue this discussion down in CT (in June)....
     
  19. frank

    frank Subscriber

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    Clever. I like this!
     
  20. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    +1

    Saying it is about light is nothing but one of so many poor generalizations. Maybe it makes you sound smart. I don't know. If we give people the benefit of the doubt, I suppose what they are trying to say (if they aren't totally full of it) is that the "qualities" of light in the scene are important. Perhaps we can call that "lighting". But recognize it is all completely a matter of individual taste. Objectively all you can really say is electromagnetic waves are required somewhere in the process.

    Photograph things that honestly mean something to you, appeal to you in some way etc. That's all there is to it I think. For me, photography is about place and time. To someone else photography is completely different.
     
  21. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    thanks nuff

    this is kind of what i am talking about ...
    for me, photography isnt' about capturing the light at all, but something else i can't really put into words..
     
  22. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    I once did a small series of rather snarky pictures where I photographed "lights", i.e., candle flames, lamps, light bulbs, etc. :wink:

    Actually, "photograph the light" is usually a well meaning phrase aimed at getting people to pay attention to light, which some camera operators don't do.

    But it's probably an oversimplification. Photography is all about light, and so is painting. Music is sound, dance is movement, sculpture is form.

    Well, no. There is so much more to music than just the sounds. Same with the others.

    Then again, try taking photographs without light ... :blink:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2014
  23. MDR

    MDR Member

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    +1
    Actually, "photograph the light" is usually a well meaning phrase aimed at getting people to pay attention to light, which some camera operators don't do.
    David Browm
     
  24. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    Well of course it's about capturing light. Without light exposing the film it comes out clear.
     
  25. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I agree with David above. Try taking a photograph without light, and see what happens. It's not a tool, it's a requirement.

    Beautiful photographs are a lot about studying the light and learning how it works. Interesting photographs can be made in any kind of light.

    It isn't possible to come up with a blanket statement that covers all of photography. Photography is, to me, about emotion, passion, having a good time, and expression. Light is required to make them, and I shoot in all sorts of lighting conditions. Some days are better than others. The purpose is to tell a story or to attempting to make others feel something.
     
  26. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i wasn't suggesting that the folks that i read or speak with or whatever, say that
    all photography is only about the light but i constantly hear that statement,
    especially by people who shoot b/w film, not so much color ..
    they say they are "light chasers" , they suggest the light they photograph is "beautiful and gentle"
    i don't believe a word of it, i think they just take photographs
    and say things afterwords just like other folks i read, know work of, &c suggest black and white photography
    isn't about the light or the subject, but about the shadows and what's not there ...

    i just think it is kind of humorous what people say.
    its like a chef saying his food isn't about taste or texture &c
    but about something like the wooden spoon he stirs the pot with ..