Friday, January 04, 2013

The Gathering Light

After a sleepless night tossing and turning and playing the time over and over in my head, I finally had enough, and at the hour of 5:00am, I said to heck with it, and after splashing cold water on my face, I grabbed my camera gear and once mounted up, I backed off my drive-way and hit the road in the early morning dawn. I was pleased to see that the forecast was spot on with the breaking dawn looking mighty fine on the eastern horizon. It was one of those mornings where the light was particularly nice, and I took advantage of the situation with a number of subjects in mind that I had noticed lately, however I had been waiting for some nice available light such as what was about on this morning.

 What is available light photography? Available light photography simply means using whatever light is present on the scene to shoot the photo. Whenever you shoot a picture outdoors of a sunrise or of a get-together, you're involved in available light photography. In most instances 'available light' usually refers to shooting photos indoors, with only the room lighting used to shoot the scene. Now that doesn't mean that you can't take advantage of daylight coming in through a window, in fact, outdoor light coming into a room can make some of the best available light photos. It also doesn't mean that you can't help the situation a bit by reflecting some of that available light onto the right spots in your photographs. Reflecting some of the available light onto a model's face for instance, can be as simple as placing a piece of white paper or white cardboard at such an angle as to illuminate the model's facial features that best compliments her or his facial features.

When I am out shooting photos, I always have several different reflector's with me, whose purpose is to reflect light. I like the Photoflex products, because they come in various sizes from small to quite large in diameter, and they twist/fold down for storage in their own bag, and may be easily carried in a backpack. The light source can be artificial such as flash lighting or natural - the sun. The Photoflex LiteDisc 32" White/Gold Reflector is useful in removing dark shadows from your subject such as in outdoor portrait pictures. It can add a nice fill light when it is needed or desired such as the photo that I shot in the hay-loft of a old barn that was quite dark, and without the reflector that I strategically placed in front of myself, and is reflecting the light from the open loft-door, I would have disappeared into the shadows of the loft.

 Also, remember that available light photography indoors usually requires the use of a tripod as well. The low light levels will cause your camera's automatic exposure system to select a very slow shutter speed, and slow shutter speeds mean that the camera must be held perfectly still to avoid any blur. I rarely go anywhere without my tripod, and it goes without saying that I shot all the photos in this post with the use of a tripod.
Also, don't be afraid to use a reflector outdoors as well, such as a white card reflector outdoors on people's faces. When the sun is high in the sky, people's faces will often be shadowed by their own features, that is, shadows can often be seen under the eyes, the nose and the chin. Reflecting some diffused white light up and onto their faces will often soften the problem in a natural way. You can use your electronic flash in most cases, however there are times that I prefer a relector for a more natural look. So, with that, photography is all about controlling light. Good light can make or break a photograph

. Landscape photographers usually go out early in the morning or late in the afternoon to catch the best light. Mid-day is the very worst time to take outdoor photos. So watch your light sources and may the gathering light shine on your photographs.

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