My fascination with light and shadows
Lighting is everything in a photograph.
Every photographer, a beginner or an expert knows light is the main ingredient in photo. You can have the perfect composition, subjects aligned perfectly and all of that, but without lighting your subject properly (nature or people) your image will stay weak.
Many years ago say in another lifetime; I was in grad school and went to Penn State University to study Architectural Engineering with a major in lighting design. I come from a technical background which focuses heavily on math and science - I am an Engineer by trade. So anything related to art and lighting was my weak point! But I had a fascination or rather wanted to specialize in something that brought the two together - Engineering and architecture. And so the AE program at Penn State was just perfect (I may be biased now!). Studying lighting at grad school was about studying about light fixtures used in residential and non-residential facilities. Understanding light sources and how light interacts with out environment and how we interact with it. I also had a Day lighting course where we studied all about natural light, windows, designing clerestories etc. And let me tell you; it was more about math and physics than anything!!
Okay, so why all this talk about my lighting courses some 10 years ago now?
Why is light that important?
Fast Forward to today; photography is a way out for me. It lets my creative outlet so that I can tune out and do my own thing. Yes, I do get caught up in comparison like any other human, but - I try and zone out reminding myself that this art is for me. Today, I know how light is everything in a photo. That you can manipulate light to your liking in any image. That I love to shoot in low light during the cold winter months and have a thing for sun flares. How we can use that very window I learned how to design in my grad school to compose an image. How light can make or break an image.
” Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” – George Eastman
Photography is a journey to me. A journey in exploring the things we have in our nature that surround us. A good photograph can make a person feel good about themselves. While it can also reveal our imperfections - both of which are important. Light adds to this. It can bring about personality. It can highlight or hide certain elements within an image.
Lighting is everything when it comes to buildings (I design engineering systems including lighting in buildings full-time). Architectural lighting enhances the walls and ceiling in a building and can make/break how a space appears.
To say that I know everything about lighting would mean I am being ignorant and very much arrogant. I am still learning how to manipulate light around me in every circumstance I can. How to observe the shadows that fall out from a building during afternoon light. How can I study the light falling on my son during twilight while we are outdoors. Where should I place myself while I photograph rim light around some simple leaves from my backyard. What about the tiny cobwebs sticking out of some leaves? How about some silhouettes?
I can safely now say that my journey towards seeing this light has only begun. I thank my grad school professors who introduced me to this art, engineering and physics of light .
Light is the beginning and the end of everything.