"Go as far as you can see; when you get there you'll be able to see farther." ~ Thomas Carlyle
“There are two kinds of light – the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures.”
It is all about the light: that whimsical, ever changing, shadow-shifting, colour defying element; as indefinable, as ungovernable, as illusive as a deity; at once bewitching and unnoticed.
The light of moist air shot through with birthing sunshine is the twinkle in the eye of a just-awakened sky; the light of mid-day: hard, judgmental, revealing; the light of evening, casting silken coral softness on flesh and feather. Then there are the lights allowed to pass through leaden skies and those drifting among the mists of a summer afternoon.
If you have travelled, you may have noticed the varying character of light on different continents. Many years ago in Australia I tried to paint the soft, almost touchable light of Australia. I’ve tried to photograph the romantic light coming through a lace-covered window in early evening and daydreamed under the cozy light pushing past gently dancing leaves and through the canvas of a tent.
I heard about it. I read about it. I saw it and knew it, and yet it alludes me. Nathaniel Hawthorne is to have said that sunlight is painting. It seems to me that sunlight’s palette is limitless, and its canvas is constantly being overlaid with new and finer dabs of pigment. Define the colour of a white poppy. See it in the morning when the clouds are painted pink. Look again when storm clouds have gathered and its stony opacity defies the delicacy of its blossom. Look at it from beneath when the sky is so blue in mid-afternoon that the orange and yellow candy of a bumblebee can be seen through the petals.
Over and over again, I read the mantra of the landscape photographer. “Shoot when the sun is low, just after sunrise and just before sunset.” And yet I carry my camera in the middle of the day, trying to pull details from shadows and sun-washed highlights. I thought they were talking about shooting the ethereal colours of the clouds when the sky sings the aria of dawn and the ballad of the dusk.
But they were not. These wise advisors were talking about colour and the softness of shadows. They knew about the frisky light that crouches down and peeks under the skirts of draping branches, the light that reveals through the translucency of petals and leaves, and that exposes the spider’s deadly designs.
I will still carry my camera through the woods and around my garden in the middle of the day because it records for me the treasures I find. But if I can surprise one of these jewels when it has not yet dried its face after the morning dew has washed it, or visit it again when the sun is telling it its bedtime story, then I am all the more excited by its brilliance, its delicacy, its beauty and its, and our silent and crucial connection to the cycle of earth’s rotation.
As you can see, I have decided to take a page from Bob Zeller and include my EXIF data under the pictures here. I seem to only be able to learn one thing at a time and in the almost two years that I have had my DSLR, I’ve so far I believe I understand aperture and shutter speed. I am starting to remember to consider my ISO and am currently experimenting with exposure compensation (EV).
Unless I know I want to try to catch or stop movement I always shoot in aperture priority and I have not even tried to learn about focus modes, metering and the dozens of other things I could adjust on my camera. I have one camera – a Nikon D60 with the kit 18-55mm lens. Sometimes I remember to use the lens hood (and to reverse it when I don’t need it) and occasionally I go out with my (broken) tripod to take bracketed exposures (manually – my camera doesn’t do it automatically) to blend. I use the wireless remote that came with the camera. I don’t have any flash units other than what is on the camera and I seldom use it.
So, if you can learn anything from the shooting information, even if it’s what not to do, that’s great, but if you see how I might have improved the shot by doing something differently, that’s even better and please jump in with your advice to help me, and possibly others who stop in, to learn.