So, If it really is About the LIght...

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by photomc, Sep 19, 2004.

  1. photomc

    photomc Member

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    After reading a comment that Francesco made, in which he stated -

    "But I have to add that it is really the "light" that makes it - materials count for perhaps 20 percent of the quality,...."

    ..I would agree with Francesco, but have some questions about "light". First, I am curious as to what the light was like when Francesco made the "Rock Group". Next there are times when I see the "light", this usually happens right after sun-up or right as the sun is about to set.

    Yet many of the photos I see here are made at different times of the day, and do you all just know when the light will be right? What is it you look for within a scene that tells you the "light" is right or wrong?

    Are there exposure techniques that you use to adjust the light - other just good exposure?


    Seems like Doug Bennett has discussed this at times, so feel free to join in on this one Doug..


    Thanks,
     
  2. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Shoot alot while travelling. This makes it tough to shoot only at the goldan hours or when the sun is out or the sky pretty etc...

    I choose my film accordingly -- as in: flat light contrasty film -- and focus even harder on content and composition.
     
  3. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    I don't agree that light is best at different times of day, it's simply different. You can adjust to the light by adjusting exposure & development, or by looking for better light. For example light at noon is not the greatest for portraits, but take the subject to a shaded area and boom, you have changed the light completely.

    The light under a baseball hat is not the same light that hits the top of the baseball hat, if you know what I mean.

    I can't explain this too well, sorry. It's just a matter of looking at the light, and thinking in terms of what the light will do (flat light = flat print, etc...).
     
  4. jim kirk jr.

    jim kirk jr. Member

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    For the most part I've been shooting with a very slow film(Maco 820c IR)for 90% of my images and make decisions in terms of ISO,etc according to time of year,quantity/quality of daylight,time of day, etc.as I go along and work with what nature gives me.
     
  5. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    Follow the light, let it dictate the photograph or be in place when the light is right on a specific idea. Also going to the same location over and over again gives an insight to subtlties as to how that evironment responds to light.
    Light in the environment at the very least is going to change every 4 minutes anyway because of the earths rotation, so an awareness of where the sun is and which direction it is sliding aross the sky helps.
    By deciding what type of light you want to photograph also helps narrow the decision making process down. Open shade light, shade light directional light and backlight each have their inherant qualities and problems so anticipating and responding with the appropriate films and filters for each light quality takes most of the thinking out and allows you to focus on images within the different lighting situations.
     
  6. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I guess it would depend upon what I am trying to achieve. Since, I live close to the water, I like like that is low in the sky, so I can get the reflection of the light off the waves in the ocean (otherwise, it just looks flat). During, the middle of the day when the sun is high, I tend to shoot in the rain forest areas, or just sleep.
     
  7. photomc

    photomc Member

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    jdef, I share your opinion on this...right now, if I find the right exposure/technique it is either an accident or something I spent more time working on than the image itself. That said, I also have noticed that even when shooting the same subject with minutes between exposures that one will be what I'm after but the other is not. Now that does not happen in the field, but once the negative is developed and the printing begins.

    Andre, I understand what you were saying - light is light, I just feel that the quality of light does change - not always at a certain time of day, or even time of year..but there seem to be times when the quality of the light is quite good.

    Thomassaurwein - have watched your different post with interest, because you seem to understand your light and use it to express your image. Think what you said about returning to the same place is very true if one is to learn about the light and the locations response to that light.

    There are several members on this site that have mastered light (or should I say the exposure of light) and then there are the better know photographers that also seem to have this down. So I guess it really does come down to understanding the basic tools we use - film/exposure/development/printing, and letting those skills work behind the scene as we concentrate on the "art". I have learned to walk away from a scene that is flat or has no life...just haven't learned how to capture what is there when it is alive...
     
  8. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    I'm one of those who has cirtainly not mastered the light but I do love the light we get between storms. It seems to be clean, full of contrast and makes a image glow. On the few occasions I have been up with the dawn chorus the light also looks really good, but alas my brain cell does not function at that time of the morning :sad:

    It might really be more to do with the look I like and that is contrasty for most subjects, so longer shadows accross a subject bringing out the textures is what I try to look for. When working with models of course I want natural soft direct and reflected light as I want their skin to look as perfect as possible.

    If I have to shoot at social occasions or demonstrations then any light will do as I can't pick the time of day / night.

    Other than when experimenting I will choosed a film I know I can work with and will give me the results for the occasion. Which is another reason if we lose Ilford I'm in big trouble and will be set-back several years :sad:
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Doing some studio work certainly taught me a lot about using natural light. I'm usually thinking of the sun as the "key" and either moving myself or the subject so the light is where I want it, or if the subject is immobile like a landscape--waiting for it to get into the right place or for the clouds to work themselves out to the advantage of the scene. My favorite light is just after a rainstorm where there are heavy clouds and clear sky with sun breaking through. Anything looks interesting in this light.

    [​IMG]

    I do like to revisit locations in different light and see what I can make of them. I'm always photographing this great view from our apartment, and I've learned a lot by doing this. There's a point at which the sun just gets up over the buildings on the left of the frame to light up the tops of those trees that's really nice, especially in winter, as in the shot above. If I'm shooting color slide, I meter the highlight side of Grant's tomb and close down 1.5 stops. If I'm shooting large format transparency with a lot of front fall and a wide lens, I know that the falloff at the bottom of the frame will be significant, so I'll try to wait for the trees in the foreground to be brighter than the rest of the frame. If I want Zone V when the trees are leafed out, there's one that's a little lighter than the others that functions as a good Zone V.

    One of the main attractions of the zone system, BTZS, or development by inspection to control contrast, is that this kind of control over exposure and development lets you shoot intelligently under a wider variety of available light conditions. I'm always amazed by Adams's successful images that were made under "bad" overhead midday light. He just seems to find the place to stand where it works compositionally and then uses contraction development to keep all the tones on the film.
     
  10. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    David,

    It's a shame that many people either do not have access to a studio or dismiss it as something that is not of interest to them. I feel it's like everything else in life where experience can be transfered into any number of situations.

    I'm still reading up on all the info posted to me here on the zone and BTZS types of systems whilst doing a little dabbling. I'm a strong believer though that what I learn mixed with existing experience will be of benefit in nailing those shots and capturing the light.

    Btw another beautiful picture from your portfolio here :smile:
     
  11. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    The technical aspect of handling light/film is part of craft of photography. More important though is the light as the actual subject of the photo - I believe John Sexton, among others, argues this point. The so-called subject of the image is merely the source of the reflected light which we capture on the film. As David suggests above, the same view taken under many different lighting/weather conditions shows the variation of light while the subject remains the same. The light as it interacts with the subject becomes the real subject of the image.
     
  12. mobtown_4x5

    mobtown_4x5 Member

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    I don't know if this has any bearing on the discussion- but every negative I've ever made that I was proud of was made within 1 hour of sunset. Maybe I'm in a light rut?

    Matt
     
  13. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Perhaps, you just love the quality of the light at certain times of day. I know I do and adjust my shooting schedule accordingly.
     
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  15. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Something I have not really considered before, but good advice..

    I really agree with you hear David, there is something magical about the light just before, during and after a storm that when the sun breaks through, the light is quite special..now if I could just have a camrea ready during those times...

    Your comments about going back and working the same location make sense, just had not considered it. Will have to find a spot that I can get to quickly and visit it often with different light..hopefully to learn how the light reacts with what I know (or think I know).
     
  16. Doug Bennett

    Doug Bennett Member

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    David Goldfarb and TPPhotog have it nailed: when that thunderstorm starts to clear, grab your camera and go. Rocks and leaves are still wet, and can take on a wonderful sheen. In mid-day, clouds act like a giant softbox, wrapping light around objects. This won't occur when the sun is at a lower angle.

    The tail end of a foggy morning is great, when the fog is almost gone.

    The magic hours, when it's clear, have never worked that well for me, with long shadows trailing off of everything.

    I did an art show this weekend. Virtually everything that sold was shot in soft light. Lower contrast ruled the day. The prints still have strong blacks and whites, but the tonal transitions are smooth.
     
  17. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    I agree that post storm or rain light (the heavenly light) is spectacular. But every light has its opportunities. Being prepared with the right gear and film you can set out at any time under any conditions and create images. Limiting yourself to certain times of day or styles of light excludes 95% of what is available. Some of my favorite landscapes and almost all my figurative work is shot under midday light. Just an awareness of light and alowwing it to show you what is within range is all that is neccesary to discover compositons. Images are available under all conditions at all times of day. By going out and veiwing (and shooting) the same location 100's of times gives you a subconcious referance for any new area you decide to explore and to respond to its variations. So I'm suggesting don't limit yourselves to specifics. Use a specific location to experiment with, every variable then draw from that experiance for creativity in other places.
     
  18. Doug Bennett

    Doug Bennett Member

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    Thomas,

    You may be right, and you may just be a better photographer than I am. However, I can't point to a single print of mine that was shot in midday sun that I like to look at. It's always "chalk and soot."

    What say the rest of you? Are you able to shoot in midday sun and get something you like?

    Doug
     
  19. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    Nearly 70% of all my outdoor photos were taken between 1 pm and 4pm. It is really not that time of day that is important to me more the way the light falls - sometimes diffused is best for the subject at hand and sometimes direct, harsh sunlight works better. A great scene can be rendered lifeless by the wrong "fall" of light.
     
  20. philldresser

    philldresser Subscriber

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    Doug

    Although midday is not perfect there are always opportunities. I recently spent a long weekend away (4 days) where the weather was %^$£ing awful. Galeforce winds and horizontal rain for 3 days. As usual the sun came out an hour before time to leave. Midday sun, very sharp and glaring but I managed to run of a film on the local beach and have posted 3 images in my personal gallery entitled 'Mad Dogs and Englishman 1 and 2 & Steps2, and although they are not everyones cup of tea I was still able to get semi -decent images by changing subject matter and /or accentuating the harshness and sharpness

    Phill
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 20, 2004
  21. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    Yes, I can. During the time I spent in Xique-Xique (Northeast Brazil), for example, I would wake up, eat breakfast, suit up and go shooting. I would then eat lunch (2 p.m.ish), get some more film, and go out shooting again. I would only stop at about 6-7 pm. In the town of Miguel Calmon, the same was true, and I would only stop at sunset (or I'd get a tripod :smile:).

    I try not to be limited by what time of day it is. There is not such thing as good light and bad light, in my opinion. Light changes, and the pictures I take change with it. I rarely go out with a fixed idea in mind; I usually shoot as I go, if that makes any sense. Sure, it takes some 10 pictures or so to "warm up," but the end result is that I look for the pictures that are around me at the time, not for pictures that would be if the light was different.

    When I photograph, my mind is set on composition. Lighting is a part of composition, along with geometry, that sort of thing. It has to be taken in consideration, but I cannot limit myself because the light is not what I want.

    That is not to say that every shot I take is good, or that every day is a good day to shoot, but this mind-set works for me.
     
  22. Doug Bennett

    Doug Bennett Member

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    So, it's really personal taste, I guess. For example, Andre, your "Man With Hammer" and "Cleaning a Fish" aren't my cup of tea, but others may really like them. There's a certain soft luminosity that appeals to me, so that's what I look for. That's why I'll never be a pro: I like to shoot what I like to shoot, and I don't like to be told what to shoot. I was doing some portrait work, mostly for friends and family, but have given that up. I don't like to hear "OK, now here's what I want." Rocks and trees don't talk back, and for a guy with a teenager in the house, I need that. :rolleyes:

    Also, it's not really true that I've never shot a midday without good results. I've got some fill flash shots, where the ambient light is underexposed by 2 or 3 stops, that I like. But that's not a natural light shot.

    This thread is really a great argument for analog photography, especially with older gear. If I'm out in the woods on a wet, sloppy day, and I dropped my Minolta Autocord, I'd hate it. But I would shrug, say "Oh well", and go get another one for $100.00. Can't say that about a D1 rig!
     
  23. roteague

    roteague Member

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    It also makes a difference where you live. Up north where you live the light fades much slower in the evening, then down closer to the equator where I live. Here I find that the light is practially useless until after 4pm (in summer), then you have to work quickly, since the sun sets much quicker.
     
  24. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    You are spot on Robert. In the summer the light lasts longer and falls slower in the evenings. Nevertheless, the winters are even more special. You only have maximum two or three hours to really get anything done but the effort is worth it. Truly the time of "glowing" light.
     
  25. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Reminds me of when I visted the UK a few years ago. I walked around Portholme Meadow in Huntingdon and just reveled in the soft quality of the late afternoon sunlight. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten as far north as you yet - who knows though. However, next year I am going back to New Zealand if I have to take a rowboat :smile: .
     
  26. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    I definitely have my preference for how I like the light to look. But, there are all sorts of ways to make the light look like that. Of course, I don't shoot landscapes. :wink:

    I don't think there's anything wrong with having a strong preference for one type of light. Personally, I usually prefer soft, very directional light. That said, for the work I do, I have to be prepared to handle flat light, backlight, midday light, weak light, etc. My equipment consists of a camera, lens, and light meter. On very rare occasions I'll use a reflector or a tripod. Almost never. But of course, I do have the luxury of being able to relocate my subjects, at least to some extent.