Seeing the Light, No Matter Its Color

by | Apr 6, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

In 1960, Peter Gowland wrote that “Light is an interpretive tool in the hands of a photographer. He can make it harsh or soft, revealing or concealing, flattering or libelous. The more he knows about the versatility of light, the easier it is to cope with any picture-taking situation he encounters.”

While the late Mr. Gowland was undoubtedly talking about portraiture, the same can easily be said about photographing cars,

And to quote one of my mentors, “Light may be light” but it’s not always the same color. Most of us think about daylight as the “proper time” for making photographic exposures and this means that many photo opps at night or late in the day are often overlooked. They shouldn’t be but even the colors of daylight are not the same. Most people look at the golden hour and see the beauty of the subject, no more and no less. To work successfully in low light, we need to know more about the nature of light so we can digitally capture images that others merely give a fleeting look.

How I Made this Shot: Photographing in private museums, such as the San Diego Collections Museum, can be a challenge because of the kind of mixed lighting conditions that exist. The camera used was a Canon EOS 50D with EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens (at 22mm.) Exposure was 1/30 sec at f/4.5 at ISO 640. Understanding the concepts behind White Balance and the many options that are available to digital photographers make sure to show this vintage Delahaye in it’s beautiful paint job. Tip: The neutral grey floor help me set a custom white balance.

Factoids: The color temperature emitted by various light sources is measured in degrees on the Kelvin (K) scale. The sun on a clear day at noon is 5500 degrees K. On an overcast day the color temperature of light rises to 6700 degrees K, while you will experience 9000 degrees K in open shade on a clear day. When we photograph a sunrise, its color temperature may be 1800 degrees. Lights used by videographers or tungsten light bulbs used in so-called “hot lights” have a Kelvin temperature of 3200 degrees. The light from household lamps are close to that color temperature and measure about 2600 degrees Kelvin.

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Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s now out-of-print but new copies are available from Amazon for $21.73 and used copies at giveaway prices—around five bucks.