Photography is about light. The quality, quantity, direction and color of light transforms photos, regardless of subject. Almost every kind of light has value, and learning to use every type of light that you encounter, is a worthwhile endeavor. Experience has told me that many people don’t notice the light around them, but there is no question in my mind, that we are all capable of learning to see (and use) light.
When I was just a toddler, we lived in a house with a clear view to the east, and Lake Michigan. We also lived with my elderly grandfather. I can still remember sitting on the front room floor, looking out through the open door as the sun rose over Lake Michigan. My grandfather sat in his chair looking out that same front door. He was not the smiley type but I could tell by his serene expression that the golden sun and its reflections on the waves, pleased him. Because of both my own natural pleasure of seeing the light, and what his expression taught me, I never again stopped checking out the light. It mattered not where I was or what time of day it was, it seemed every light can be beautiful. I also realized that I could learn from others. Even if the teacher was just a facial expression. Both lessons served me well in photography.
Today’s photos have nothing in common except that in each case, nature provided me with light. I could capture a likeness of that light and share it with the world. The light itself varies greatly from image to image.
What do they say to you? Sunny or cloudy? Early, midday or late? Front light, side light, top light or backlight? Crisp light or soft light? Gentle or harsh? Do they flatter the subject or not? Do they provide a mood?
My personal method for looking at a photo is to first take in the entire image. A photo is an edge to edge vision and my first glimpse tells me how I feel about the whole picture. Then I examine the subjects within the picture frame. Finally I look at the light and see how it affected my first impression.
Some of today’s photos show that it is not always spectacular light that makes a photo. I think the snowy trees and the Short-eared Owl photos depend on the light far more than first realized. The owl image looks undramatic in a thumbnail, but enlarged you can see that “the lay of the light” adds much to the picture.
Back before I even thought about taking pictures myself, I used to browse photos everywhere and let them take me on a journey. Some would provide information and others would cast a mood over me. In those days I did not analyze what they did or did not do for me, but I was conscious of their effect just the same. There is something about freezing a subject for a fraction of a second, and having it last for eternity. The light, is a major factor in how we perceive that image