Seeing the Light

One of the coolest — or strangest, depending on your point of view — things that’s happened to me since getting into the photography hobby has been my ability to “see the light.”  It’s something that I just noticed a few months ago, and it’s something that appeared almost overnight.

When I look for something to take a picture of, I find myself looking not just as what it is I’ll be shooting, but also at how the light is falling on it.  In fact, it’s almost more important to see how the light is working than anything else.  Is it boring and flat?  Is it highlighting a specific area?  Is it shaping the object or person I’m about to take a picture of?  Is it distracting, the way “dappled” light can be?  (That’s the annoying dotted pattern of light you might see after it’s finished streaming through the branches of a tree, for example. Generally, you don’t want that on somebody’s face.)

The sad thing is, you start seeing it everywhere.  You drive to work and notice the way one particular tree on the side of the road has one branch sticking out into the light while everything else is in the shade.  You don’t bother taking a pic of your daughter because the sunlight coming in through the window would blow out the highlights.  You walk into work from the parking lot and notice where cars reflect light, where the shadows hide details, etc.

Now, if only I could develop this eye for black and white imagery, where tonal differences are the big factor.  One step at a time. . .