Camera Work: Light

A photographer can work so long as there is light – Edward Weston


Yesterday, I came home from shopping and was struck by the color of the Rhodies just outside my front door. They had a glow on that I didn’t remember from last year, so, after putting the groceries away, I grabbed the camera and took a look. I had photographed this same bush last year and I knew they were the same flowers, but something was different. The different was the light.

I have an outdoor light on the building, set to go on with a motion sensor. Last year, the sensor didn’t work, so as the days got shorter, I messed with the settings and got it to work reliably. Now, if anything, it’s too sensitive, and seems to ignore the fact that it’s daylight. My walking by the sensor field set it off, and provided enough artificial light to function as a second source, blending well in brightness as an accent light on diffuse daylight.

A gift, in fact. Studio photographers routinely do this mixing, pushing at times the mix of colors using different color gels over the lamps. You see this in theatre as well. I just had to walk up to the bush, wave my hand and there it is.

But even without this fortuitous circumstance, when we photograph outdoors on a sunny day, we see the same effect, namely direct sun on the subject but the shadows get skylight only, and skylight is blue.

Examine the values in both photos. The left is a sunny exposure, the shadowed part is bluer and the green leaves duller in color. The shadow would have been quite a bit bluer, but the magic of digital made that problem go away.

The right side is the version with the fill light from the porch fixture. The daylight is from an overcast sky, which, incidentally is blue, compared to direct sun, but the brain compensates for this and presents us with gray. (The subject of color balance via brain compensation is a subject all to itself).  Again, digital magic mimics the brain.

Tweaking the right photo needs as much consideration as tweaking the left, because raw out of the camera, each photograph would seem off balance, if some sort of realistic presentation is desired.

A final note: both photos are the same size and the same proportion yet the two sides appear different. Optical illusion, due to the fact that the right image is centered, the left is not, giving rise to the perception that the right side is square. Or at least, squarish. In a final spread for a book or magazine, I would not likely run these two together but here, it offers a glimpse into another aspect of working with images.

Here’s a link to a new gallery on my website where you can see these images full size, along with a few others. This gallery is new and I’ll be adding to it significantly. There have been additions to other galleries this week as well.


Photos ©2015 Lawrence Hudetz All Rights reserved.

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Lawrence Hudetz

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1 Comment

  1. Chris Maukonen
    May 24, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Very nice. Playing with light is part of what photography is all about to me.