Monday, November 3, 2008

The Light Fantastic

Kisses from Red
“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

Edith Wharton
I've been thinking about light lately. Not so much the physics of it. We all know that, at it's most basic level, it is electromagnetic radiation of a wavelength most sensitive to the human eye. I'm not digging into it at that level. I'm more interested in the mechanics of how it falls upon the world, leaving shadow and detail in it's wake.

As I've progressed over the last 18 months, I've begun to pay more and more attention to the quality of light in everyday life. From the cool, blue tones melting at the break of day, the zombie-like greens of fluorescent, or the warmth and glow of a bulb as it boils off the tungsten filament one watt at a time. The Dame and her GunTones have started to play more of a roll in my photos; I'm finding that I like playing with them to see what I come up with. Unfortunately, I've been leaning too much on the warm side lately and I'm having problems breaking free of that. Especially when it comes to skin. I've been somewhat enamored by cooling down the tone of skin or even the light reflecting off of it. I've been studying a few photos and trying to figure out how it's done, but so far it's a carrot just out of reach.

Some of the recent posts by David Hobby have helped. I like the idea of mixing cool and warm tones in a photo. He does it by dropping the ambient on the background while subsequently lighting the subject with a warmer-than-flash light. The other way I've seen is balancing for tungsten. Especially when dealing with blue skys. It just makes them that much bluer. I haven't yet tried this, but I will.

Along with the tone, I've been paying more attention to the crispness of shadows. Being able to play with a softbox, I've found that I have a love-hate relationship with soft shadows. On one hand, it adds such a welcoming quality to a photo. On the other, sometimes it just doesn't work for the look I'm going for. Take the recent steampunk photos. I really like how they came out, but I'm not so sure that the soft light was the right look for some of them, especially around the corrogated steel backdrop. Red on the Town There's something baffling about hard light that just makes me want to play with it a lot in order to figure it out.

When I started out, it took me awhile to understand the concept of apparent light size and how that relates to how the shadow appears (or disappears) on my subject. But now, it's just second nature: tiny light, hard lines. big light, soft (or no) lines. Now, I'm onto figuring out how reflectors and grids change how that light appears. Prior to Red's shoot, I didn't really use reflectors because I liked that dark, moody, one-light look on a photo. It was simple and perfect. The anti-baroque. Same with the grids. I wasn't sure how to use them. I'm still not sure I know how to use them, but I'm more eager to apply them for effect.

Tomorrow, I go back into the studio with nothing in mind other than to shoot a pretty woman and play with the light. There's a new piece of equipment in place (a boom) that will allow me to do something different: artificially light from above. The New FeminismI have this concept shoot I want to do to re-create a scene that involves this type of lighting. Just enough light from above, lots of shadow obscuring the body. Sort of enveloping from a different direction (not from the side). It should be fun. Actually this is one of the best things about photography: having fun with the light.

The lovely lady in the photos is my good friend Red. These were taken the same day as the steampunk shoot. She's fun to work with and we came up with some pretty good ideas to mold and shape that day.

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