Mimicking Light

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.” ― Ludwig van Beethoven

The first time I came across this quote, I knew there was a great truth to it. I believe this holds true for any art. In my continuing study of photography and lighting, I came to appreciate the subtleties of seeing how ambient light was falling on the scene and deciding how I could enhance it, instead of displace it.

While I was working on a personal project (The 15-minute Portrait), I put this insight into practice. And I know I’ve said this a number of times before, but I am attracted to the challenge of making seemingly ordinary locations look extraordinary. One such occasion arose when I shot Stephane on the footpath right behind the building where I work. I found a nook where I could seat her and get a shot of light dappling through the trees in the background at the same time. It was late afternoon and the light was fading quickly, so I took a quick ‘guess’ at my settings and fired a  test shot to see what ambient was giving me.


Okay, not bad. I proceeded to introduce the light from a single off-camera flash into the scene, just barely out of the frame. I recomposed my shot and slowed my shutter down to about a 1/3 of a stop, which gave me the image below.


When I first posted this image, a number of people asked me if I really did use flash when I shot the picture. That to me is the best compliment I could have ever hoped to get.


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