Looking for the Light

January 25, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

The word Photography literally means 'drawing with light'. A photographer is always "looking for the light" and then trying to capture it!

There are many types of light and I will go through a non-exhaustive list with you!

Bright Sunlight or Hard Light: often in the middle of the day that causes harsh shadows, and direct or concentrated light spread. This light can be difficult to photograph depending on your subject. Other times it's just perfect when you want to capture blue bird skies or even stormy clouds! The following two photos are from the Palouse region in Eastern Washington. The first is just full sun. The second has a concentrated light and shadows.

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Golden Light or Golden Hour: this warm glow happens almost magically in the morning, during the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. Most photographers seek out this lighting! This warm glow can truly add magic to a photo! Also, this is great light for breathtaking portrait photography! These next two photos are of that morning golden light that add such richness.

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Sunrise and Sunset: this light can cast long shadows as the light is low to the horizon. They can be any color you can think of, pinks, purples, yellows and oranges. The colors can add so much to a scene! Have you ever seen a sunrise or sunset you didn't like? Me either! :) In the next two photos you can see the differences in the colors that can show up for sunrises and sunsets!


Blake Sunrise with Rainier Lisa MizeBlake Sunrise with Rainier Lisa Mize

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Blue Hour: this light happens just before sunrise and then after sunset. It makes the sky a beautiful blue. It only lasts for maybe 20 minutes, so you need to be quick, but the experience and images are truly amazing! As you can see in the next photos that blue hour can be absolutely beautiful!

Blake Island view of Seattle Lisa MizeBlake Island view of Seattle Lisa Mize

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Diffused Light or Soft Light: this light happens when there is cloud cover and the light is evenly spread, softening shadows. This is perfect outdoor, portrait lighting! It also is good for many outdoor scenes like in the woods, long exposures, crashing seas and especially when you don't need an interesting sky in whatever you are photographing. Sometimes there is even color in the diffused light! 

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Flat Light: this is when there is no distinct contrast in the scene. Everything just seems to be the same, the highlights and the shadows. This is different from the lovely diffused light I just mentioned. I have been in beautiful places and have taken photos and realized something is lacking...it is most often that the lighting is "flat" and it is not providing the "pop" needed to make a scene stand out and come to life. As you can see, this is a beautiful place in the Hoh Rainforest, but this day was just, well, flat so the photos have no heart almost!

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Start training your eyes to look for the light! Often, when I am with other people, I will point out the light around us, hoping they will see the beauty too! They often hadn't even noticed!

As you look for the light, what do you see? Do you see cool patterns from shadows because the sun is bright? Are the moss and trees dripping with beauty because the light is diffused or soft? What scene can you set up with that gorgeous sunrise or sunset as your backdrop? What can you capture with that beautiful golden light that just warms you to the core?

Light is a necessary part of photography. As you learn it, your images will only get better!

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