August, the dog days of the Northern Hemisphere. Hot, dry, humid, smoky, oppressive, languid - whatever the flavor, it's hot.
And the light is heavy.
From nine to six, it just sits there, big and bulky, shadowless and uninspiring, daring us to challenge it to a duel. But it's too hot, so we burrow into our air-conditioned dens to push paper or stare at light emitting diodes while post-processing some evening landscape photographs. To catch the so-called "good light" we venture out early and late for photo forays in the fringe hours.
Meanwhile, light is light, and light doesn't know good from bad. It just is. It goes on expelling darkness just like it always does, unconcerned with human valuations. Light reveals, heals, it's meals on wheels, the spiel of zeal, the real deal. Light is the good guy, even at High Noon, starring Alice's brother Gary.
Let there be Light. And the Light was good.
If light is bad, heavy, flat, uninspiring, colorless, indistinct, unfocused... and so on... maybe light isn't the problem; perhaps it's our own perspective that's off kilter. We explain, define, parse, triangulate, and meter - and end up missing the point altogether.
We value light not in and of itself, but by its myriad effects - the length and shape of shadow, the coolness of azure in the sky or warmth of a beach sunset, the revelation of barnwood texture, stars reflected in a mirror lake, the redness of a ripe apple, the C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. We don't photograph light at all, but its consequences. We don't even know what light really is - particle or wave? It shouldn't even really exist, yet here it is, illuminating all that we are.
No man can see God's face and live.
Light has weightless weight. Light exerts pressureless pressure. Light crawls into nooks and crannies. Light flows over under sideways through. Light can bounce, reflect, refract, dissipate, cohere, perform magic tricks on a two-legged horse while balancing an entire ballet troupe on its sixth finger. Do you know just how lucky we are to be able to witness the effects of light? Is this not a miracle?
For the next two weeks, explore light and its eternal mysteries. Never take it for granted; light is a gift but is not a given. Pay attention to its source, physically and metaphysically (which matters more?). Light cannot be bottled or owned, yet lets us use it for good and evil. Light is like love, or gravity. Perhaps they are all the same thing.
Ideas for HEAVY LIGHT:
- Shoot purposefully in broad, bright daylight. Hard, hot light is beautiful too.
- At noon, shadows still exist! Look for subjects parallel to the ground. Shoot sideways.
- Create compositions using hard shadows.
- Shoot high key; shoot low key.
- Practice exposing for backlit scenes (use your spot meter).
- Put a subject in shade and blow out bright highlights on purpose.
- Shoot up (into the sun) or down (away from the sun) rather than horizontally (perpendicular to the sun).
- Process in B&W for high contrast.
- Shoot a silhouette.
- Scrim your subject to soften the light.
- Bounce light using a reflector.
- Shoot through a prism.
HEAVY LIGHT will run for two weeks, from August 10 through August 23.