Making the light

In my last post I talked about chasing the light. Well great light can be an elusive thing so sometimes you have to make the light. There is your standard in-studio lighting which is very much needed sometimes, but when you are a location photographer like myself, you have to mix your light with the available light on location. This is where lighting becomes like cooking, you season to taste. Do you want your light to act as the main ingredient or do you want it to compliment what is already there and to mix in so well that it looks like it belongs and already exists naturally. I do all of the above but some of my favorite images have come from doing the latter.

One of the images shown here is of my father-in-law sitting in his favorite chair. He is always in it. It’s almost part of his persona. So I wanted to capture Jack in his chair, in his natural environment and I didn’t want you to know that it was lit. You see, Jack’s living room is always dark, very dark. The sun never comes through the windows like you see here but I wanted it to look like it did. I wanted you the viewer to believe that this is how Jack’s living room looks in the afternoon light. To accomplish this I put a gelled flash on his front porch and aimed it down and through the window camera right. Then I bounced a flash off of the living room interior wall behind me to open up the shadows a small bit. You don’t notice it’s there but you would miss it if it wasn’t.  I made sunshine.

In all of the photos shown here the light was made because it didn’t exist at that particular time in that particular location. All of the lighting was created using a combination of speedlights with various remote controls. I have a bag with about a half dozen old speedlight flashes of various makes in it. I call it my “sunshine in a bag” kit. I keep my remotes and various colored gels in the same bag. This way when I go on location I can create light, make sunshine if you will, where ever it’s needed. As a professional photographer you can’t always rely on the ambient light to be beautiful so you need to know how to make beautiful light, whether it’s to counter act a high noon sun such as the photo of the family on the park bench, or to take a gloomy weather day and turn it sunny, such as the photo of the family in the fall woods. Not delivering quality photographs is an option. So dig out your flashes and start experimenting. It is what will separate you from the  Uncle Billys and soccer moms with the fancy cameras…well partly anyway.

Happy wanderings!