The simplest question in photography is also the most complex: What makes a good photo? It isn’t enough to say that a good photo comes from its lighting, composition, subject, and so on; this question has a deeper answer. Good images – as different as they may be from one another – all stem from the same roots: The photographer has a strong goal for the photo, then expresses that goal in the most effective possible way.
In the first of a series of follow-up articles to The Quality of Light, I have posted this article to share a series of photographs (along with the thought processes behind them) that I hope will accentuate the interplay of light, directionality, shadows, and mood in landscape photography. As previously discussed, the directionality of light is a powerful factor in defining the quality of shadows, the contrast, textures, and three-dimensionality of a scene, as well as the mood and emotion that the photograph will convey. In particular, unidirectional light qualities (e.g., side lighting and backlighting) serve this purpose well in landscape photography.
In a follow-up to a previous article, “A Study in Vision, Light, and Shadows”, I decided to share my thoughts and experiences on my most inspiring topic in photography – light. For simplicity, I decided to write about light in a narrow context from the perspective and experience of a landscape photographer, since outdoors scenes are what I gravitate to. Much of the analysis and discussion that follows is equally applicable to other genres of photography, such as portraits, macro, still-life, and commercial photography. In this article, I will cover broadly what quality of light means for me in landscape photography as well as discuss a variety of scenarios where the scenic photographer can use different properties of light to create a given effect. Please note that this discussion is based on my own personal observations and experiences, which may differ from those of other photographers. My goal is to help beginning landscape photographers understand the different qualities of sunlight and how this instrumental tool can be harnessed to fulfill the visualization process.
Three years ago, when I made my first photo tour through the magnificent landscapes of Iceland, I fondly recall an interesting dinner discussion with my fellow photographers. We had just returned to our guest house from a memorable photo shoot. As we shared good wine, food, and laughs, the discussion pleasantly turned to photography. After the seemingly prosaic and obligatory discussion of camera gear, we got around to more interesting topics such as light, travel destinations, and our individual exploits. One pleasant, wise, and well-traveled gentleman from Holland made an interesting comment that has resonated with me ever since. With a blend of delight and amusement, he said, and I paraphrase him:
You know the drill. You pick up a magazine or browse a website and flip through the photos. Most you look at for less than a second, but a select few grab your attention and demand a longer look. What’s different about these select photos? What makes some photos great and others mediocre?
In this final installment to this series, I have chosen to discuss one of my favorite topics in photography: close-ups. My goals with this article are to provide a basic understanding of light and exposure when photographing a subject at close range, the rationale for exposure loss during magnification, and guidance on how to correct for this exposure loss. To illustrate these principles, I will share my own empiric observations, review the pertinent calculations that govern magnification and exposure loss compensation, and discuss select photographs that I have made at close range. Hopefully, this article will help beginning and advanced photographers grasp the physics of light at close range and take command and control of magnification and exposure compensation. Although I crafted this article from the framework of a photographer using traditional close-up and macro equipment (i.e., bellows, extension tubes), the use of an external light meter (i.e., non-TTL metering), and continuous lighting (e.g., natural light, lamps), the tenets and technical considerations for close-up exposure compensation are still relevant to those photographers who prefer automation, TTL metering, and electronic flash. Finally, I will wrap up the discussion by sharing some thoughts on the use of film as a tool for learning the visualization process.
In this fourth installment to this series, I have selected a series of photographs that I made with long exposures on three film stocks to share in the context of a discussion of film reciprocity departure and the use of filters in color film photography. Although I had originally intended to include a discussion of exposure corrections for close-ups in Part IV, in the interest of brevity I decided to defer this topic to a final Part V to this series. Of note, reciprocity departure and filtration in color film photography are complex and interesting topics. This article is not meant to be a comprehensive treatment of both topics, but rather an introduction that I may expand upon in future articles.
In this third installment to this series on visualization and film photography, I have selected a sample of photographs (mostly made in the 35mm format) to share and discuss. Although I heavily focused on technical aspects in film photography in Part I and Part II of this series, my goal with this article is to provide a more aesthetic description and simplified approach to the construction of photographs. I thought it would be of interest to beginning 35mm photographers to briefly discuss some of the film choices available. Although the choices of film stocks have dwindled over the years, fortunately there remain a plethora of excellent professional and consumer 35mm films from which to choose and enjoy. Even though I have used many – but not all – of the available film stocks, I cannot possibly discuss all of them here. For one particular film stock, I am delighted to share a pair of interviews with more experienced photographers that readers might find interesting and helpful. Of note, Photography Life contributor Vaibhav Tripathi has previously shared his experiences and beautiful photographs made on 35mm with Fuji’s Velvia 50 and Kodak’s Portra stocks in his inspiring photo essays on Acadia National Park, landscape photography, and Waterfalls of New England series that may also be of interest.
In this second installment to this series on visualization and film photography, I have selected two photographs, “Gravida” and “Pyramis” (both architecture), to share and discuss. As in Part I to this series, I will provide a detailed description of the thought process behind the construction of the photographs, the choice of tools, and the technical considerations involved.
As a follow-up to my previous essays on visualization, in this article I will share select photographs made on film with a detailed description of the thought process, the choice of tools, and technical considerations that were involved. I have chosen two starkly different photographs (both landscapes) to discuss. I hope that these photos with the accompanying narrative will prove interesting and helpful to beginning film photographers and perhaps guide more experienced photographers in advanced techniques and approaches. Of note, Photography Life contributors John Bosley, Laura Murray and Vaibhav Tripathi have previously written excellent essays on film photography that may also be of interest.