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9/11/15
Smile?

9/4/15
Eye & Camera

8/28/15
Light

8/21/15
Google Photos

8/14/15
S.E.E.

8/7/15
Get Closer!

Kip’s Pic Tips & Tricks

Friday, August 28, 2015

Light

What I’m going to write about today is on one level “stupid simple” and on another level the most profound aspect of photography. Bear with me so we can move beyond the simple toward the profound.

When you take a photo, you don’t photograph something; instead, you photograph the light bouncing off of something.

Yeah, of course that’s true. If you are in a well lit room at night, and there is a lovely vase of flowers on a table under a floor lamp, take a photo of the floral arrangement; the image will glow with the incandescent light. Then turn of all the lights and photograph the vase again.

Nothing.

Now turn on the lights, and move the vase somewhere else in the room where there is no direct light shining on it. Photograph it again. Compare this photo to the first one; look closely at how the light is reflecting off specific parts of the vase and flowers.

Light, beautiful light. The painter Monet understood this. Google “Monet water lilies.” Even if you are familiar with his work, it will be enlightening — enlightening — to compare one painting to another: same subject; different light.

Again:

When you take a photo, you don’t photograph something; instead, you photograph the light bouncing off of something.

In Monet’s water lilies paintings, you not only see the water lilies, but the reflections on the surface of the water. And, in fact, that’s what we usually think of when we hear the word “reflection”; one dictionary definition: “an image seen in a mirror or shiny surface.”

But consider this: everything we see (save the sun, stars, and lightbulbs) are reflections. Even the moon is a reflection! Look out at a landscape; it’s all reflections!

Now we’re moving toward the profound.

But how does this affect our photography? Well, once this concept sinks in (and for it to fully sink in takes a lifetime), you start to photograph differently. You look for light to photograph; more accurately, you look for reflections to photograph.

As you might know from reading the opening introductory page to these blog posts, I publish one blog post per week, on Fridays at noon. This gives you a chance to read it and ponder it before the weekend commences. Then over the weekend you can takes some photographs with the blog post in mind.

So, if you do so this weekend, here’s what I suggest: find an outside scene that strikes your fancy, and photograph it at least a half dozen times at different times of day and when the sky is cloudy and when it’s sunny.

Then, grab an easily moveable object — a beach ball, a bicycle, a patio chair — and photograph it at least a half dozen times at the same time of day but with the object moved to a different location for each photograph. This will show you what the same daylight looks like when seen in shade and in direct light.

Then go inside and place a small table directly against a windowsill. Put a vase or bowl on the table and photograph it. Now move the table two feet away from the windowsill. Photograph again. Move the table to another window on the opposite side of the house. Repeat the sequence. Then do both again later in the day. If you want to elaborate on this exercise, do it with a piece of corrugated cardboard placed over the bottom half of the window so only the light is coming through the top part.

Now transfer all the photos on to your computer into your Google Photos account. (If you have been following along with these blog posts — last week’s in particular — and following the suggestions, you now would have a Google Photos account.) If you don't yet have a Google Photos account (it’s free), download the photos into whatever app you currently use to organize and edit your photos.

Look closely. Don’t rush. Ponder the light. Which photos “grab” you? What is it about the light in those that is special? Which photos are “blah”; why? Take a break. Come back later in the day. Come back another day. Take notes. Do some more photo sessions building on what you’ve learned. Take some portraits using what you’ve learned.

It’s your vision. Photograph reflections. And move toward the profound. Photography is truly a spiritual art form; if you want it to be.