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Painting with Light - Understanding Light
I photographed this series of Mobius Arch during my recent trips to the Alabama Hills. All six images show the same subject, with four images taken from nearly identical points of view. Yet all images look profoundly different from one another, simply by the different properties of the light.
The first row shows two images that I took during sunset. The last row shows two images I took during sunrise. The quality of light changes very quickly during this time. A few hours before sunset and a few hours after sunrise, the landscape looks flat, washed out, and the high contrast between shadows and sunlit regions gives your images an entirely different quality.
I painted the two images in the center row with a powerful flashlight.
Painting with Light
The light painting technique is rather involved. You need to set up your camera for long exposures. Painting the stones and waiting between each result takes a long time, especially if you do not get everything right with the first couple of shots.
Fortunately, I got lucky with these images.
The beauty of this technique is the amount of control you have over the lighting of your subject. You simply highlight whatever you want and let the rest vanish into darkness. It is an easy process:
Lighting a subject from behind creates an aura around it. I used the same technique for this Cholla tree in Joshua Tree NP.
The quality of light brings a subject to life. Observe the light whenever you are out in the field. Try to imagine where the sun will move or use software to predict the movement of the sun and the moon. Consider how the light will change during the day. Sometimes it is worth waiting for better light, for clouds to clear, or the sun to set.
Sometimes the only thing setting a professional image apart from a snapshot is the light. Unless you run around with a flashlight, you need patience and tenacity. The universe rarely lines up for you, but you can usually outwait it.