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.