When you opened the curtains this morning, you let light into the room. When you opened your eyes, you let light into your head, and when you open the shutter on a camera, you let light in to make an image. If you can, look outside right now. If it’s daytime, then the sunlight you’re seeing is at least eight minutes old. That’s how long it takes to travel (at the speed of light) the 92,000,000 miles to Earth, to pass into our atmosphere, through the clouds and the smoggy fumes to bounce off the buildings, people, animals and stuff to finally go into your eyes.
Now, how those buildings, people and animals appear will change according to how much cloud, smog and fumes the light has had to travel through. On a clear sunny day, things are bright and sparkly, shadows are dark and we can see further. On a cloudy day, the sunlight bounces around in the clouds (we photographers say “diffuses”) before falling to Earth. Things aren’t so bright and the shadows are softer. The colours of things look different too, like at sunset when the light goes all orange. It does that because it’s low in the sky and filtering across thick atmospheric fumes. There are also other things that affect the light, like when it bounces off a big white wall, or reflects off water, goes through glass or is mixed up with man-made street lights, car lights or room lights. Suddenly, there’s a whole bunch of different sorts of light that are changing the way things appear and, as a photographer, you have to tame these wild beasts. One trick for seeing how the light is working, is to hold your hand up in it and look at your palm. See how your skin looks as you move it around.
Find and take pictures of the different types of light listed below.
Light not lights — look at what the light shines on rather than where it comes from — so, for example, if you think of a lovely sunset, don’t point your camera at the sun. Instead, turn with your back to the sun and photograph things bathed in its deep red colours. If it’s a strong light, then pay attention to the shadows. If it’s a soft and diffused light, then notice how certain colours are more vibrant.
Black and White Soft Light — Find a light source that casts a gentle light over your image, if you’re struggling to identify a soft light, it’s the sort of light that you can look at without blinking and doesn’t make solid shadows. For this task, switch your camera/app to black and white.
Black and White Hard Light — This time, you are looking for the sort of light that makes you squint your eyes and creates solid shadows — maybe it will even look like a silhouette in your image. For this task, switch your camera to black and white.
Black and White Shafts of Light — If you could control a hard light, you might be able to create a small beam or shaft of light from it — almost like a laser. The best place to search for this sort of light can be next to curtains and blinds, or coming through small windows. For this task, switch your camera to black and white so as not to be distracted by the colours.
Warm Light — What colours come to mind when you think of warmth? These are the colours we are looking for in our light — reds, oranges and yellows. The warm light will change the appearance of walls, paper and our skin. Sunsets give off warm light — use that as a starting point.
Cool Light — This is the opposite of the light you have just been looking for, so instead of warm colours, we’re now looking for blue and green light, or maybe a super-fresh white light. You’re more likely to find this light in the morning and on a cloudy day.
Night Light — Here, you should look for light that illuminates an area at night. The most common source would be a streetlight but, there are plenty more to find.
Bounced light — A bounced light is just that — a source of light that has been reflected or bounced off a surface. It might be a table or wall or even a mirror. Look at how the colour and texture of the surface affect the light.
Multiple light sources — Make an image with more than one light source. On a bright day outside, it’s not going to be easy because the sun will be so much brighter than everything else, so you’re going to have to pay attention to the different brightnesses (photographers talk of “light values”). It might be that you have to wait until evening and the “golden hour” when the sun, street and house lights have similar values and you can combine them all in one image.
Other types of light: Artificial Light:
Big Light-source (few shadows)
Small Light-source (dense shadows)
Morning daylight Mid-day daylight
Cars Street lights
Interior house lights
Interior strip lights
Screen (monitor) light
Other types of light:
#LevelAwesome : How many different types of light can you get into one image?
Doing and thinking tools suggestions are starting points for you to find ways of doing this activity.
In the video below, Todd Hido talks about using available light and combinations of natural and artificial with long exposures when he composes his pictures. He uses a tripod to hold the camera still but, you could prop your device up and set a self timer so it doesn’t move around when you press the button.
My work will explore whether:
I am aware of different sorts of light; and
I am able to control my device and how it interprets and records the light.
Post your Images to Instagram or Flickr with #Phonar and #NationLooking4Light