Today’s Post by Joe Farace
It doesn’t matter what person, place, or thing you’re photographing, the ultimate subject of any photograph is light. Whether it occurs naturally or artificially, light has three basic characteristics: quality, quantity, and color. The quality of the light on a subject ultimately determines the effectiveness of your photograph. That’s why writers spend lots of time taking you behind specific photo shoots describing the conditions under which the images were made. These descriptions of the aesthetic decisions that were made are designed to help you literally “see the light” so that you can benefit from our experience but the best way to learn how to see light is to shoot photographs and examine the success and failure of each photograph vis a vis the way you handled light in the final image.
How I made this shot: My friend and colleague Peter Burian considers Canon’s EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM to be a portrait lens, so I made a portrait of this hot rod. The 85mm focal length plus the EOS 30D 1.6X multiplication factor adds a nice perspective and cropping to this photograph—I think so anyway. Exposure was 1/250 sec at f/14 and ISO 320 and was underexposed by minus one-third stop to punch up the colors.
If light is the main ingredient in a photograph, then the quality of the light becomes the driving force in producing successful images. As you know, the earth’s complete rotation every twenty-four hours and our planet, with its slightly tilted axis, revolves around the sun every 365 days producing not only seasons but variations in length of day and night. That is where those long, lazy days of summer come from as well as winter’s shorter days. It’s also why the far northern latitudes receive almost total daylight in summer and near complete darkness in winter.
Knowledge of atmospheric conditions is essential to your understanding of light and the golden hour. Did you know that air pollution from industrial sites, forest fires and volcanic activity, affect the quality of light? Particulates in the air produced by these sources diffuse and scatter light rays. The haze in a Los Angeles basin sunset produces a different quality of light than the same sunset taken on a remote beach in the Hawaiian islands. Areas near Mount St. Helens and Yellowstone National Park had their sunrises and sunsets obliterated during the eruption and massive fires respectively. Yet photographers thousands of miles away had intense colors added to their low light experiences.
If you want to see what I had to say and see some results of using other 85mm lenses, take a look at my post “Lens Comparison: An Affordable 85mm f/1.4 Lens.”
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Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photograph that’s now out-of-print but new copies are available from Amazon for $21.88 with used copies starting four bucks. The Kindle price, for some reason is really high.