Monday, January 12, 2009

Au naturale

Natural Light, available light, ambient light, it has many names. It is the light we find waiting for us in a location. Sometimes it is straight sunlight, sometimes it is sunlight reflected off a white shed, sometimes it is a lamp, or overhead room lights. Maybe it is stagelight, or a street-lamp, or stadium floods. It is light we can use on its own, or shape with reflectors, or enhance with strobes. It is also light that I have completely ignored lately.

Window Light behind camera

Off camera strobes are something I have been fascinated with since I picked up my first camera many years ago. I have been using them a number of years, but not very creatively, and not with much confidence. This changed over the summer when I discovered Strobist, and stumbled upon Confessions of a Photographer. I worked through the exercises in Lighting 101. I watched videos of photographers using strobes in a studio and out on locations. I experienced one of those "magic" moments where a bunch of independent circuitry in my brain finally connected. I gained confidence in using my strobes, and suddenly I had a whole new set tools and techniques for making pictures. I was no longer confined to what I could force available light to do.

So, what happens when you get a new toy? Sometimes you forget about your old toys. This happened to me. It seemed every time I had my camera out, I also had a flash, or two, or four.

More window light camera left, and backlight

Same image, with a bit of high pass filtering, and limited opacity on the original
(Not sure which I like best, but I'm in experiment with everything mode)

I realized I may have gone too far when I brought my camera bag, a light stand, and umbrella to my wife's grandmother's house Christmas day. Really, I did! Fortunately, I had the good sense to leave the stand and brolly in the trunk. I figured I had it if I needed it, but maybe I wouldn't need it?

Same Window as before, this time to camera right

It turns out I didn't. The kitchen had fantastic light coming in windows, bouncing off of whitish walls, and it just looked nice falling on people. The light picked up some warmth from the room. This is something that, to me, is really nice. I could "correct" it, I suppose, but that loses some of what I liked. I also attempted candid photos for the first time in a while ( aiming a bunch of lights at someone tends to make them aware of the camera... ). I placed a few images from the day through the post, only one is directed, all are available light.

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