The Value of Light - Part 1

How do you see the light?  For those who can, it's more than just opening your eyes.  But, as a photographer, or someone learning photography, how do you see the value of light?  A lot of times clients will ask me when the best time to photograph outdoors using the sunlight.  The common response is in the early morning and late afternoon.  And the worst time is known to be between the hours of 10am and 2pm, due to the sun being right overhead and at it's brightest.  But is it?

I remember a TV meteorologist commenting to the anchor that weather is neither good nor bad, it's just weather.  It has different qualities, but we put values on it in terms of how it meets our needs at a given moment.  As with sunlight, it has different qualities as well from brightness and intensity, angle, color temperature, and so forth.  Each part of the day offers something different.

I remember one of my first photography classes started with the assignment of photographing a location at just before sunrise, then multiple times throughout the day, and then finishing just after sunset.  The project was meant to train one's eyes to see how light can transform a location's look.  The color of the sunlight will range from cold to warm, it's intensity can grow harsh and then soft, and the shadows it produces can be short and curt, to long and dramatic.  

( I took the photo above of my wife's sunglasses on the counter at In-N-Out while we were waiting for our order.  I just love how the light was streaming in at that time of day.  It was also coming through a screen that softened the light just a bit.  Soon, I will be taking about how to shape light.  Stay tuned!)

So, why do I say all this?  Well, light is at the core of why photography exist.  And light has a variety of values that one must train their eyes in order to properly see.  Always be observant to how light is interacting with everything around you.  How is it shaping the way you see people, places and things?  How is it affecting your emotions?  Take the time to look around and see how the sun's light can transform your environment throughout the day.