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It Really Is All About the Light

Several years ago I enrolled in a community college photography class in southern Michigan.  The class, an entry-level photography class, included digital imaging.  I had recently purchased my first digital camera and was making the switch away from film.  On the first night I arrived a few minutes early and took a seat in the second row.  After a quick look around the room I could see that my tripod was twice as old as most of the other students.  A young guy seated next to me leaned my way, whispered, “Aren’t you suppose to be up there?” and hooked an index finger toward the desk at the front of room.  He thought I was the instructor.  I assured him I was in the right seat.  A few minutes later the real instructor arrived.

The instructor, a commercial photographer, handed out the sixteen-week class syllabus and began with his philosophy of photography.  The first thing he said was, “It’s all about the light.”

At that time, I had been taking picture for close to forty years and had the carousals of slides, sleeves of negatives and boxes of photos to prove it.  Over the years, I had documented more family celebrations, vacations and school events than others in my family cared to remember.  I taught photography classes for a short time (in the dark ages of the seventies); made a little money selling photos and had some photos published.  But in all that time, I never thought about photography in that simple, clear, singular way… It’s all about the light!

Light is everything to a photographer.   There can be too much or too little.  Photographers fret about light direction, intensity, contrast and color.  We see light as indoor, outdoor, natural, mixed, artificial, infrared, warm, cool, filtered, mottled, reflected, refracted, the list goes on and on.   And that’s light before it gets to the camera.

Inside the camera light is bent by a lens, a shutter determines how long or short the burst of light that make it into the camera will be and an aperture Read the rest of this entry

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