It’s All About the Light…

Wherever there is light, one can photograph. Alfred Stieglitz

Striped Butte

Striped Butte. Death Valley National Park.

Last night I gave a presentation to the Santa Clarita Valley Photographers Association (SCVPA) (a great group of people, and a more organized and attended-to camera club than I would have ever imagined). The most ironic thing about teaching and presenting is that I always learn as much as the audience. No matter how often I may speak about my work and my philosophies, I learn something about my photographs and beliefs every time.

As I moved through and talked about the 96 photographs I shared with the SCVPA, I was alerted to my use of any and all light. It’s not a new discovery, and other photographers often comment on my use of whatever light. The fact is, I have a photograph(s) in my collection to represent virtually every hour of daylight. The notions that there are only “golden hours” or “sweet light” under which to practice photography have been perpetuated for far too long amongst the nature and landscape photography community. It’s enforced by books, workshops, online photo forums, and far too many photo instructors. It’s time to change this line of thinking, for believing that photography can only be practiced for a few sweet hours of each day and then setting out to capture only specific images that capitalize on that sweet light is akin to photographing with dark blinders on. Any light is available light, and how you choose to see it and whether you choose to photograph under it determines the diversity of your abilities, your vision, and your work. I’d venture that photographers are missing a lot of beautiful photographic opportunities when they’re locked into a singular and exclusive method of photographing.

All light is available light. Sweet light is any light you choose to photograph under. The Golden Hours extend from sunrise to sunset. With few exceptions, failure to create photographs under any light is not a failing of the light; it’s a failure of vision. Take off the blinders and be free.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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13 thoughts on “It’s All About the Light…

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention It’s All About the Light… « Michael E. Gordon Photography --

  2. Great points, Michael. The photo I blogged today from Mammoth Hot Springs was photographed around noon time yet the light was as good as I could have possibly wished for. Automatically assuming sunrise / sunset is the only good light is just a formula, it doesn’t mean that the photographer is really familiar with how light interplays with the landscape.

  3. Yep.. good light is the light that best illuminates your subject and conveys the emotion and story you wish to convey. While few of my images are taken in mid-day, those that are, are some of my very favorites 🙂

    While most photographers, books, etc. will profess to “shoot the light”, “chase the light” etc… I find that to be a misleading and unproductive way of doing photography. Rather, I shoot the subjects and compositions that I’m interested in, and make sure to choose the kind of light that best illuminates those. A subtle distinction, but an important one, I think.. I think you follow a similar mindset – this image is a perfect example of that.

    As I’ve noted before, your ability to see the value of any light has been a great inspiration to me!

  4. A good point you make here Michael. What you’re writing about is in line with Guy Tal’s recent guest post on Art Wolfe’s blog. Many teachers perpetuate the idea that photography is only about light or a certain type of light. My father was one of the first to become known for breaking the traditional wisdom as he photographed all day long mainly out of the practical necessities of traveling and only having limited time to cover a particular proposed national park or wilderness area.

  5. Good comments. I saw something recently on the Singh Ray blog about this topic, and it was suggested using a polarizer (you know whioch specific brand works best 🙂 is effective, and my initial shots seem to support this.

    Thanks for keeping us thinking!

  6. Very well said, Michael! Like so many other things, I think this is about sticking to something because it’s safe and easy (or easier). Oftentimes photographs made in the golden hours are simply about the light and color without regard to composition or personal expression. Let the light do the heavy lifting rather than the photographer. At other times, more care and deliberation is needed to produce meaningful work.


  7. Well, now you’ve gone and issued a challenge. In thinking about this post I thought of some areas I want to photograph that I usually only do either in the morning or evening.

    As a result, I’m off tomorrow to make images all day and look for stuff that interest me first and see what I see. I’ll let you know the results.


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