One of the things that elevated my love for photography was an deeper understanding of light. As a photographer, this seems to be an obvious skill to have but it took me a while and many hundred rolls of film and many years in a darkroom to really start SEEING light. It took me another little while to start manipulating it the way I wanted. One epiphany for me was the 4 days I spent with Jerry Ghionis back in 2009. During this intensive workshop, I went to bed crying a few times thinking I should stop it all, close the business and sell my gear. What I didn’t understand is that I was being de-programmed. I was being pushed outside of my comfort zone. I finally stopped looking at the «prettiness» of photography : props, subjects, location,… and started focus on the light first. If I wanted to master photography, I had to start thinking like a sculptor of light. It is shortly after this workshop that I was able to shoot this image – taken midday on a hot July afternoon.
I will humbly say that the journey is far from over. The good news is I have the rest of my days to perfect this and to chase light.
During this conference, I met an amazing photographer who masters this whole light thing and is a solid wedding and portrait photographer I look up to. Check out Barbara Ann’s work. You may recognize some of Jerry Ghionis’ influence.
Susan Stripling and her husband, Nikon-ambassador, Cliff Mautner do this so beautifully. I can only wish to master light to one tenth of their abilities. Although they use natural light, the images they produce aren’t the result of lucky accidents. It isn’t because they use great cameras and professional lenses. These guys master light. They sculp light. If you look at some of Mr. Mautner’s outdoor wedding images, you will see he uses rim light, backlight, also called separation light. Yes, he shoots right into the light! The beautiful result is a subject that is separated from the background and yet beautifully lit without turning the subject into a silhouette.
Natural and available light have been used for a very long time in photography. I don’t believe Rembrandt is the first to have used it.
Rembrandt’s technique or his vision of light in portraiture (and environmental portraiture) has been emulated and copied ever since. Susan Stripling masters this so beautifully. This image is breathtaking.
Memories and snapshots are precious. I love what the smartphone cameras have done for families: opening up the opportunities for creating many memories, easily and rapidly. What I feel sad about, is that it has blurred the line between professional portraiture and snapshots. Lighting and composition are still key to quality photography. So start seeing the light.
Natural light is free and available on most days. So go out and play with it… and don’t forget to wear sunscreen.