Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chasing More Light


I wrote in my last post about chasing the light.  It's true, I spend much of my time when I'm shooting pictures watching for certain kinds of light, hoping for clouds to pass--or to appear--depending on my needs and whims.  There's a corner in my study/studio/hideaway with a small window that  I love for its northern light.  It's never a warm, glowing kind of light.  Daylight coming through a north facing window has a coolness to it that makes for moody, slightly melancholy photos.  That's just what I wanted when I took the above shot.  And it's something I really accentuated as I processed it in Lightroom.  I desaturated the photo quite a bit and added some graininess.  The three kinds of tulips in this photo were all incredibly vivid; I wanted the richness of their colors, but not necessarily the intensity.  I also wanted the light coming from the side, so that the curves of the petals would be traced by it and there would be a sense of shadow just off to the left of the photo--not darkness, but a gentle fade into shadow.  

I actually shot this at the very end of the day using only natural light (I use natural light almost exclusively).  I kept the ISO at 200 because I wanted to be in control of the grain during processing. I also let the photo be a little on the dark side, knowing that I would lighten the exposure later.  This let me take a lot of shots in the fading light, and as the room grew dark around me, the photos got better.  This is one of about 30 shots I took during that hour.  There are more that I will share sometime soon.  I'd been sick all day, fighting off a flu, but I told myself, "You've got one good hour of light left.  DO something with it."  I'm so glad I ignored my headache and chills, and did a wee bit of light chasing.


This shot was something else entirely.  I took it the week before the tulip photos in response to a lesson from the fabulous Kim Klassen in her Be Still--52 class, in which she asked us to do a backlit shot.  For that assignment, I set up a small table in front of a south facing window in my bedroom, and I took a series of photos in the mid afternoon when the sun was quite intense. Southern light is usually much brighter and cheerier--more golden than northern light.  It can also be very intense, especially in a backlit shot.  To soften the possible harshness of the afternoon sunshine and to block any trace of the view outside the window, I stretched a piece of cheesecloth across the window.  I  wanted the cheesecloth to have a bit more texture and some shadows, so I poked several white feathers into it.  Because the focus of the shot is on the silk flower, the feathers don't read as feathers; they read as texture.  I added the organza ribbon to give the image one more layer that the light could play with.  I was especially happy that I could get some shimmer off it in the right side of the frame while on the left the ribbon intensifies the feeling of shadow.  

Beneath the flower is a very old, very worn and faded piece of Irish linen that's printed with large cabbage roses.  I love using distressed fabrics in my photos.  The more worn the better.  I especially love using things like linen and burlap in contrast to light gauzes and tulles.  As with the tulip photo, I took out a lot of the saturation when I processed this.  

I think light is the single most important element in photography.  It has everything to do with setting mood and tone in a picture.  Many things can be played with in processing--cropping, composition, saturation, exposure, etc.--but light quality (I'm referring less to the how much of it, and more to the type of it) is essential from the get go.  It's more important than having a fancy camera (mine is not particularly fancy) or a bag full of expensive lenses.  Those things are wonderful and helpful, but you can take gorgeous shots with your phone or your point and shoot . . . as long as you're willing to chase the light.

P.S. I want to thank Kim Klassen for featuring my above tulip photo on her Instagram feed over the weekend, along with photos by three wonderful photographers.  I also want to thank her for featuring the silk peony photo on her blog a couple of weeks ago as one of the selections for the Still Sunday competition.  It was an honor to have my work included alongside such gorgeous photos.  

I am blessed to have found an incredible community of writers and picture makers and takers over the past six years that I've been blogging.  As that community grows and friendships deepen, I discover new opportunities for learning every week.  I can't imagine a greater joy.  

11 comments:

  1. Very well written . . . . .looking forward to seeing more of your artistry.

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    1. Aw, thanks, Marilyn! You inspire me, too! xo

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  3. It's a beautiful post...I love the tulips on the old trunk and the soft, pale pink flower is just beautiful...love the idea of using the cheese cloth to soften the light.

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    1. Thanks so much, Cheryl. The cheesecloth is endlessly versatile. I use it in so many ways.

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  4. Both of these are so lovely! I especially like the first one, with the stunning light on the tulips!

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    1. Thanks, Cathy! Those tulips were just such beauties to work with. ;)

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  5. Such gorgeous images Gigi! I am totally in love with the tulips and the trunk. Everything about it is perfect. The drape of the tulips, the slightly grainy feel, and the dark but not too dark quality. It's so cool when just two items make such a wonderful image.

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    1. Thank you so much, Karen! Your comments really made my morning. I had so much fun setting up and taking the tulip shot that it's wonderful to know someone else likes it, too!

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  6. ohhhh the light…it really is what makes photos happen….and i love saying that i'm a natural light photographer…it always provokes a question in which i'm always prepared to answer :)

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