A Light Mantra

July 5, 2010


I think one of the challenges that all photographers face is how to separate the subject from the photograph. A photograph can only be a representation, an interpretation of a subject. If we focus too much on the subject, we can miss the photograph.

This is especially common with landscape photography. I once had someone tell me that they did not have to worry about photographing nature, including landscapes, because nature was perfect and nothing more was needed. It may be true that nature is perfect, but photographs are not, and photographs are not nature. Landscapes can sit out in front of us, spectacular in what we see, then when we take a picture, we can be disappointed. A spectacular landscape does not automatically make for a spectacular photograph. The subject is not the same as the photograph.

One way to really help you see the photograph rather than simply the subject is to look for the light. Our eyes can see throughout even the darkest shadows and the brightest highlights of a landscape. The camera cannot (though HDR is a tool that can help). The camera wants to emphasize the light, especially its contrasts from bright light to shadow. If we go out to simply photograph landscapes, we can be disappointed, and no amount of gear, not even the latest multimegapixel wiz-bang camera, and no amount of software can help if we do not also see the light as the camera sees it.

So here is a mantra of sorts to keep in mind when photographing landscapes: Find the subject, find the light, and put them together in the photograph.

You can also find more about working with light and the landscape in my book, The Magic of Digital Landscape Photography.

And if you are interested in a really unique aspect of nature and its photography, check out my latest blog on the Ancient Bristlecone Forest at www.natureandphotography.com.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 27 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Rob Sheppard is the author/photographer of over 30 books, the editor-at-large for Outdoor Photographer magazine, and a nationally known presenter and workshop leader. His specialities are nature photography and helping photographers with digital technologies from getting the most from small sensors to Lightroom to Photoshop. Check out Rob’s websites at http://www.robsheppardphoto.com and http://www.natureandphotography.com

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