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Monday, March 18, 2013

There Is No Bad Light

I'm guilty - I freely admit that I am terribly guilty of uttering  the phrase - "Acck the light's crappy. Not wasting my time." when it comes to deciding whether or not to head afield in search of wildlife and landscape photo  opportunities.

I find myself getting caught in the trap of if it isn't the nice light of dawn and dusk times, or if the sky is flat, grey and overcast, or even way too bright and sunny... I just seemed to stop trying.

Instead of abandoning ship - I used the poor light and foggy conditions to set the scene on this image of migrating mallards in the timber

Yesterday a quote I once read hit me right between the eyes..

There is no such thing as bad light, only light used improperly.

So in an effort to challenge my less than perfect appropriate use of light skills I set out in the flattest of flat, greyest of grey, miserable light to see what I could wrangle out of my time slogging around in the wet weather.

As always in spring, I find myself spoiled by the great winter light that we have here, the sun sits lower in the southern sky, the sunrises and sunsets, seem much more colorful. Call me crazy but winter light is so wonderful.

During a recent conversation with a friend who is beginning to learn her way around a camera , she asked why my photos looked like they did and hers didn't. I further confounded the issue by replying "You have to learn to read the light. "  This  statement that sent her scurrying off to her Adorama catalog to find a light meter.

That wasn't what I meant by learning to read the light.

Break a few rules - really you can shoot into the sun! Make it work as back light for you

Outdoor and nature photographers are at the mercy of Mother Nature most of the time. When your studio consists of the wide open spaces, you must learn to adjust to whatever lighting scenario Mother Nature dumps in your lap for the day.

There is no perfect light that works for every situation and for every subject. I for one had to get myself out of the rut that I needed that perfect lighting to achieve the best image.  Note to self:
- no matter the light conditions, no light should be considered bad.  Instead, a bad light day  should be looked at as an opportunity, to bend, flex, and adapt and find subjects and scenes that work in the light of the moment.

Since yesterday was such a flat, grey, overcast day I had to rethink what I would search out to photograph. The heavy rains, were causing lots of rising water, lots of rushing streams, waterfalls tumbling over the bluff edges and lake overflows.

It was clear that while the light wasn't going to be worth a damn for photographing the eagles feeding at the strip pit lake, it was by golly perfect for photographing running water. And there was plenty of running water! 

Yesterday's "bad light" was actually the best light for shooting running water with a low ISO, a low, low shutter speed, and tight aperture. If there had been great sun, it would have been nigh on to impossible to capture the water in a silky. misty fashion, without  a whole bunch futzing, fiddling, .and filters. The flat, muted overcast weather turned out to be perfect in the end.

The crucial point to remember is that there is no such thing as bad light! All light is good light! It’s how you as the photographer choose to portray your subject that requires effort. While there are moments when Mother Nature  provides you with the perfect light for your subject, when she does not you still have plenty of options.

There is a fabulous subject waiting to be captured in less than perfect lighting conditions and with all the tools available to digital photographers, sometimes the magic happens on the computer instead of in the field. Shoot in RAW and don't be afraid to utilize your processing software to give images a little more punch, and little more pop.

When mother nature hands you poor lighting conditions, back up, regroup, step outside the box, look around and  find  a way to turn that bad light  into the best light! 

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