Water is essential to life as light is essential to photography. Ever look at a completely black photo and think “That is the best photo I’ve ever seen!”. Didn’t think so. If you wanted to see that all you need to do is cover your eyes to block out all light and you’d have your “photo”. Or you can just look up the meaning of “photography” and find out that it is “drawing with light”. Of course you all know that so why bring it up? Because light can actually make or break a photo. Light can have very subtle or very powering effects depending on the way you use it. There are all different types of light, but in order to create a photograph, you only need just one of them, or a combination of them.
I will admit that it is much easier to create stunning photos during the blue hour or golden hour, but that doesn’t really help you understand light in its entirety. It’s easy to go out and view a sunrise or sunset and see a great scene before you, compose your shot, and snap a photo. Many people, especially friends and family, will think you are a great photographer. Now go to that same spot in the middle of the day and get a shot that gets the same reaction. It’s quite difficult. But it’s possible if you know how to use the light at the moment to your advantage.
I don’t have the luxury to get out and shoot at the best times so I’ve learned how to use different lighting situations when they come. Give me a bright sunny day and I’ll find something to photograph. Give me a cloudy day and I’ll find other things to photograph. Give me a partly cloudy day and again I’ll find things to photograph. I’ve forced myself to get out when I can no matter what the lighting is like and used my creativity to find things to shoot that turn out nice. Sometimes I’ll experiment and nothing comes out but that’s still learning how light works and what not to do with certain lighting. The two photos above alone with the one below were all shot during non-sunrise/sunset hours and I think they turned out nice.
At some point during my photographic journey with experimenting with light I came across a set of acorns. I decided to photograph them to experiment a bit. Then I left them. Some weeks later I found myself in the same place and the acorns were still there. The season had changed and the lighting was different so I decided to experiment more with them and left them again. Then sometime later I was at the same spot and they were still there. I took this as a sign so decided to just put them in with my camera and now I have them everywhere I go. Because of this I’ve been using them in different situations and they have been helping me understand how to use light in order to get different effects whether I knew about it or not. I’ve also learned some things I never knew before. Why acorns? Because I find that they make a nice subject to shoot. Pretty much anything that makes a good subject would work, but I wanted something that is found in nature naturally, not placed there by man.
These two photos were taken during the middle of the day. I was walking around with my oldest daughter and this was the first time we came across the acorns. I thought they would make a nice subject as I was having a hard time finding anything to shoot. I think they worked out quite nicely. Of course they were on the ground so I was able to move them around to place them in a nice spot to work with the lighting, but it’s because I knew what I wanted that I was able to do that.
This photo was also taken during the middle of the day. I decided to place them in a place where there were shadows but yet had some light shining on them. This allowed me to get the look I was going for to get a somewhat of a low key photo with bright portions. I like the way it worked out as the light from the left of the frame looks as though it is shining on the acorns with the glare that is coming off of them. This would have been easier with an off camera flash possibly but at the time I didn’t have one and the sun worked out nicely.
These two photos were taken around sunset as I wanted the the angle of the sun to be lower to get the proper lighting. Now that I have a flash though I won’t need to wait for the sun anymore and can get shots like this whenever I want. Other than working with light in this manner one other thing I learned is when nature provides you with a specific composition it is nice. But when coming up with your own composition it can become a little difficult as nature is more random where some of us tend to have a hard time at placing objects more randomly. This is especially true for those of us who like to see things in order or want more symmetry.
This photo was of course taken during a sunset. You wouldn’t shoot the sun directly like this in the middle of the day due to it being much brighter and a possibility of causing harm to your eye and possibly your sensor as well. But I did learn how the sun can be used to take photos like this. I would have never found this out if I didn’t experiment and this also makes me want to see about getting a round diffuser for my flash and seeing if I could possibly mimic the look.
For this shot I decided to put the acorns on a wooden post during a sunset to see what I could get. I also wanted more angled light as well for this shot so waited until the sun was down low. The color helped out as well. But again like the previous shots of the acorns in the snow, I’ll be able to use my flash to replicate shots like this as well which will be very helpful. I’ll be getting some gels for my flash as well in order to mimic the sunset/sunrise colors as well as seeing what I can create with different colors.
And last but not least are these two shots that I did right after getting my flash. These were taken on my dining room table and because of the results I was able to get with this setup I know that I’ll be able to get some great photos when I’m working in the field no matter what the lighting conditions are.
So the next time you are able to get out don’t let it discourage you that it is cloudy or sunny or that the sunrise/sunset is going to be an overcast one. Learn how to work with what you have. Use the current lighting to your advantage. Don’t expect anything and go out with a clear mind and be ready for whatever situation that you are in. For landscape photography you can’t always choose what you get to work with. Light is something that is always changing and we need to know how to work with it as photographers. As I continue to explore new places and re-visit old places I plan to continue to learn about and work with different lighting situations. I believe that by doing this it doesn’t matter what the weather is like when I travel and visit other places, I’ll be able to work with what I have at that moment.