random thoughts: beauty and light

"To love beauty is to see light."

~ Victor Hugo

When I first started taking photographs, I remember a much more experienced photographer telling me that in order to take a good shot, I had to "see the light."  "When you can see the light," he said, "you'll have understood what it takes to be a decent photographer."

I remember hating this.  What light? I thought with exasperation. There's just light, and I see it!  What does that mean, 'see the light'?  What is he talking about? How do you 'see the light'?

Of course, my friend wasn't just talking about acknowledging the light exists; he meant that I should be mindful of the light -- is it golden? Blue? White light? Is it coming in at an angle? Is it merely ambient light, or tightly focused? Are there shadows, or reflections? Once I had assessed the light, I could adjust my camera settings accordingly, to capture the light and image as authentically as possible.

He was right, of course -- in order to take a technically good shot, it makes sense for the photographer to be mindful of the light.  But now, after having photographed many faces, I've learned that there's another light to be mindful of: it's the light that animates.  In my experience, before taking a portrait, it makes sense to assess the surrounding light, but once you look through the viewfinder, it's equally important to look for that spark, that flash of someone's spirit that will inevitably cross her face, and capture that.

It's not easy.  You have to be very quick on your shutter.

But when you succeed, it's totally worth it.

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On another note:  I recently made some changes to the Beauty of Different page.  Feel free to check it out, and even add to your blog reader, if you're so moved.  As we get close to the publication date of the book, I'm planning for a lot of goodness to start appearing over there.

And on that note, have a great weekend everyone. 


Image:  Photographed with my Nikon D300 and 50mm lens


Song: Say hey (I love you) by Michael Franti & Spearhead