The role of the photographer, at its most essential, is to capture light. Think about the roots of the word “photography.” Photo- photon, photosynthesis. Light. -graph autograph, calligraphy. To write. When we make a photograph, whether with an iPhone, modern Nikon DSLR, or an antique twin lens reflex medium format film camera, we capture the light that’s reflected from a scene and store a record of that light in the form of a picture.
As you might expect, pretty light often makes for the best photographs. The hours immediately after sunrise and before sunset add golden colors to the sun’s rays. Cloudy days (and big windows, if you’re inside) make soft, even light that can be flattering for portraits. On the flip side of the coin, fluorescent lights give off strange colors that make skin tones look sickly and can be hard to remove even with photo post processing software. Direct sunlight on a sunny day can wash out colors with very pale light and can create harsh, muddy shadows. A good photographer knows how to look for good light and can often make the best out of a situation with bad light.
What happens, though, when the light in a scene is so crummy that it can’t be rescued? What if the photographer wants to make a picture in a place with practically no light (for example, a cavernous recital hall, or even an actual cave)? In these situations, a photographer can either a. give up and go home or b. learn to create light.
All of the photos in this set were shot in a recital hall with the house lights out and a few spots faded down to provide a little ambient fill in the shadow areas. I used two Nikon SB-700s (picture the add-on flash that you sometimes see photographers use mounted to the top of a camera) on light stands set to go off remotely when I fired the shutter. When you create your own light, you can modify it to give it whatever qualities you like (intensity, color, hardness/softness, direction, etc.). I used bare flash for my key (think main light) to make dramatic hard shadows and alternated between bare flash and shoot-through umbrella for my rim light (defines the borders of the subject and separates him from the background).
Much thanks to John for being a subject and for providing our top secret unofficial location for the shoot. Let there be light.