It may sound silly to suggest that photographers, painters and others
who visually interpret the world in order to share what they see, need
to “see” the light.
As a photographer, if you are making an image of a lion you obviously
need to see the lion. Not just see the lion, but SEE it. The same is
true of a mountain or a building. They need to be seen with all our
faculties and shared in a technical sense, in a way that does justice
to how our inner selves saw it in the first place.
All that bodes true for the light itself as well.
Not only is light the source that colors other subjects, it is the subject. Photographing light, either as it colors and contrasts another subject such as the lion, or as a subject in and of itself, first requires us to see it, then capture it with our cameras.
For years it was suggested to me and even flat out spoken, that I color my
sunrise/sunset images beyond what nature gives me.
In film days that meant that they, and “they” included other
photographers, students, and buyers of my images, thought that I was
using red or gold filters to make my images so rich and colorful.
During the past 15 years of digital photography they must have meant
that I was adding color or at least saturation in the editing phase.
I did sometimes use filters in film photography, but they were always
used in order to bring the color of the subject towards what it
actually looked like. Remember, our brain has its own filters and
compensates on its own to make a yellow flower look yellow even if it
is in the cool, blue reflected light of the sky, in a shaded area.
Filters can bring colors back to a true “normal”.
None of my sunrise/sunset images that have been created during these
digital times, be they direct images of the actual subject of the
rising/setting sun, or photos of a subject being “bathed” in the light
of the early or late sun, have been saturated or colored warmly with
filters or in the editing process, or by the creative use of the white
balance features on my camera. That said, when I make an image and
review in on the back of my camera (something of course I could not do
with film), if it does not appear on the monitor as it does in front
of my eyes, I may shift the white balance from either auto or
daylight, to shade. That does warm it a smidgen, but never adds pure
gold or red to the scene. Nature does that.
This sunrise image made near the shores of Lake Michigan, is pretty
gull darn red. That’s because the sunrise that morning was well,
pretty gull darn red. I did take my exposure reading manually, using
the 1% spot metering mode, from the brightest area around the sun, but
not the sun itself. That rendered that area and the sunlit area above
the lower third of the image, mid tone. That kept those areas from
being burned out and the rest of the sky from being featureless as far
as the clouds are concerned. It in fact, kept the entire image deep,
colorful and rich just like it was the beautiful morning.
I live for mornings like this.
The colors of the rising/setting sun, are not always about the actual
rising/setting sun. This Mourning Dove was gloriously bathed in the
very last rays of the October sun on one mood stirring autumn’s day.
There have been no color alterations with this picture. What I did do
was, use my multi segmented metering mode with a minus two stops of
exposure. That not only kept the light deep and saturated, but it held
down the exposure on the background. The image as I brought it up on
my computer at home, was as you see it except there was a tiny bit of
foliage detail in the background. I reduced the background one or two
clicks in Photoshop in the editing process.
This image was about sharing with the world, what I saw and felt that
afternoon. With that, I admit that I felt just a tiny bit different
than what I saw.
I’ve showed these three pictures which were made at White Sands New
Mexico, together before. They are shown to you in this order because
it seems to make the most sense.
The sand dunes are washed in the beautiful desert light of late
afternoon in the first photo. The second shot, displays the absolute
final “kiss of light”. It is my favorite, as it takes some gumption
and at least a tiny microbe of artistic vision to share so little
light with others. The third image, as you see, tells us nothing about
the sand. Clouds, sky and crepuscular rays are the subject.
The truth is that the final image was actually shot first. That of
course is why the sun is so high in the sky. I took my exposure from
the bright spot “almost” next to the sun. That overexposed the image
and allowed for a “dark and light” photo with much mystery.
Sometimes we see things somewhat differently than reality. It’s never
a lot of that with me, but somewhat. That vision needs to be carried
A sunrise, the horizon, Lake Michigan, and a stormy sky. Mostly a stormy sky.
I was completely enthralled at the powerful, stormy, yet dingy sky,
when I set up my camera equipment. I would have been happy making
images of a dark sky, and an equally dark lake. Then the clouds
separated just a bit from the lake. There it was, a different sunrise
image of Lake Michigan than I had ever created.
Nature, through God, provides…..in more ways than one.
It’s about what you see, and what you feel. Without light, there is no
photography. To me, that makes light the most important subject any