It probably goes without saying that photography is primarily about the light. The word itself is derived from Greek words meaning “light graphing” or “light drawing.”
As we shoot, we are recording the light reflected off or shining through our subject, just as our eyes are when seeing.
I recall more than a few deeply profound, beer-fueled college dorm room discussions trying to get our heads around the idea that we didn’t really see things, but the light reflected off things. Heavy, man.
This is my mind, I am always looking for the light. The good light. The right light!
A few weeks ago, I walked into the Whitman College pool for a Walla Walla High School swim meet expecting very little beyond the daily challenge of trying to do interesting journalism from everyday assignments.
I knew the light in the pool was “good” in a very broad sense — bright enough to shoot sports action without too much trouble.
I was pleasantly surprised by a delightful shaft of afternoon sunlight shining into the pool from the large windows. Ha! Pools of light! That got my creative juices flowing in a “gotta get that light” kind of way.
That sunlight was a couple of stops brighter than anywhere else, so it would highlight whatever was being illuminated in that spot. When I first saw it it was shining on the far lanes, which was not where the top WaHi swimmers would be, so I shot the first few races in the boring light.
Before long, I had what I wanted — churning arms and legs splashing up water into that glorious sunlight.
It was a good reminder for me to always watch for those areas of interesting light in a sea of mundane.
Shafts of sun pouring through windows or tree branches.
Light peeking through gaps in clouds or buildings.
Artificial light pooling in dark spaces.
When I see great light, my next step is waiting for a nice “something” to be illuminated by it.
Sometimes it’s a rainbow. Sometimes a runner. Or a hawk in flight. Or a pitcher throwing a ball.
In the case of my swimmers it was an easy matter of waiting for one to come splashing through.
Be on the lookout for these pools of light and use them to improve your shooting.
If you have comments or questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.