Andre Cantelmo Photography | As photographers, light is fundamental

As photographers, light is fundamental

April 30, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Sunlight supplies plants with the energy they need to make sugar. These sugars are turned into starches and supply energy to the animals that eat them. Plants turn light into food. Visible light is just one part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum extends from the low frequencies used for radio waves, to the high frequencies used by gamma rays. In the mix we find infrared, as well as x-ray. When we think of light, we think of the frequency of visible light, however, because humans are a clever bunch, we now have ways to “see” in frequencies that our eyes are unable to. In my view, this is magic. It is also very revealing. When a photographer creates a landscape in infrared light we are treated to a mystical other worldly piece of artwork. When scientists look into the Universe with infrared or x-ray they are treated to information previously unavailable.

As photographers, light is fundamental to our art. We time our images to the “Golden Hour”, that special short period of time when the Sun's light works its magic. I once stood atop Mt. Cadillac, in Acadia Pk. Maine, and watched a sunset along with a group of about seventy five others. It was a particularly dramatic show, and when it was over a round of applause was well deserved. The Universe did a good job that evening. This moment atop a mountain is the result of magic also. The light that washed over my face, and warmed it, and treated my eyes and camera to such drama began in the center of our Sun, ten million years ago. It took that long to work its way to the surface of the Sun, and when it broke free, another eight minutes to reach my face on the top of that mountain in Maine. I am overwhelmed by being so lucky to enjoy this magic.

Lets think about that sunset for just a moment. As the Sun touched the horizon and sat there for just a few seconds I was watching an event that was already eight minutes old. Also to be accurate, the Sun really does not set at all, the Earth is rotating. Another fact that we gloss over is that I am looking back eight minutes into the past. When the weather is clear, sunsets are a common occurrence in our lives. Lots of us don't even give them a second glance. There are those of use who’s awareness is strong, and from time to time they park by the side of the road where I live and sit and watch the Sun go down. They then calmly drive on to finish their day. Their day became just a bit more special, because of their awareness and willingness to enjoy the present moment.

We photographers capture special moments. Rather, we record reflected light that bounces off of those moments that demand a frame around them. Light enters the lens on our camera, is modified by all the glass inside the lens, and reaches the eye of the artist. Awareness and skill are necessary for the decision to press the shutter release button.

The skills necessary to be a creative photographer can be learned over time. The truth be told, you can learn 80% of what is necessary to be a photographer in a few years. The last 20% will take you the rest of your life. The creative skills that make our work special are another story. Creativity takes imagination and awareness. The skill of observing the flow of life, looking inward and observing our own emotional response to what is in the viewfinder requires concentration and patience. We cultivate the skill of being observers, and blocking out all the distractions that fill our day to day life. This is called being present in the current moment. The best of a long list of photographic artist are very good observers of the flow of life. They are imaginative, and creative. They have the skill to be so present, so in the moment, that they see things the unskilled are unable to, until a frame is placed around their work, and asks us to “here look at this”. Underlying and supporting this form of art is the visible light that so many of us take for granted. This is magic, a miracle, and should stop us in our tracks just for a brief moment to really see, and not just look.  


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