The Best Light Is Often Subtle

Photographers often focus on high contrast light…  Images that pop when posted to sites like Instagram where they are viewed at a size no larger than an inch or two for all of eternity.  Images with lots of contrast are certainly eye-catchers and make for some interesting shots, but capturing subtle light is becoming a lost art.  Subtle light can only be described as the slight differences that look as if they were delicately painted into the image.

The shot above was taken with the iPhone SE on Kiawah Island in a field behind a gas station.  I just happened to see the fog low in the field and quickly pulled to the side of the road and slogged through the wet field until I found an ideal position to take shot.  All I had on me was my iPhone and the Leica M7 film camera.  I took the shot with both cameras and will compare them in a future article.

If you look at the image above you may notice the small amount of morning fog still clinging to the ground under the tree.  What makes this photograph for me is the reflection of light off of this low-lying fog.  If you look under the tree, where usually a shadow would be cast, you can see the juxtaposition between light and dark.  Where there should be a dark shadow cast there is a brighter spot lit by the sky.  This, along with the placement of the tree, come together to create a successful image.

Will it pop on Instagram?  I doubt it, some images are meant to be larger than a square inch.  Don’t get me wrong, I think sites like Instagram help photographers focus on what is important to an image rather than the superfluous crap that makes up all the ordinary shots out there.  On the other hand, I think it is important to remember that social sharing sites like Instagram shouldn’t be used to validate your photography.  Keep your eye out for subtle differences in light and create something beautiful.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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