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« The Fairies Are Live | Main | Beyond the Decisive Moment »

Perfect Lighting Is A Distraction

Gestures And Dreams

Gestures and Dreams - from Where the Fairies Are

I am a lazy photographer. People will view a dramatically lit image of mine and say, "Wow, how long did you have to wait for the light in that one?" I'd respond, "I don't know. Maybe two minutes." Even that may be an exaggeration. I pretty much don't wait for the light. Sorry, all you patient nature photographers. My apologies especially to the wildlife guys. They wait

I didn't use to be this way. The first year I took up photography as a hobby, I saw more sunrises than the rest of of my life combined. I would scout out a location before and then return in the dark just before dawn. I'd stand there eyes still bleary with sleep. I'd setup my camera and tripod, rub my hands to warm them and wait for the light to be just right.

Waiting for light goes something like: find and frame a subject, anticipate lighting and then wait until that light arrives. But not anymore. Why not? Let's consider the act of looking and a story of a street musician.

During morning rush hour, an anonymous violinist set up in a Washington DC subway station. He played for 43 minutes as 1097 people passed by. Of those 1097, 7 people stopped for about a minute to listen. The musician was world renowned violinist Joshua Bell, playing on a 3.5 million dollar violin. He played music that only three days earlier was played to a packed theater of $100 seats. You can read the full story here.

Most everyone, 99.4% of the people, walked by without pausing. Joshua Bell is one of the best classical musicians in the world. He was playing some of the finest pieces ever composed. What happened? The people in the subway station were on their way to somewhere else. They were distracted by a predetermined destination. They were waiting for the light and they missed Joshua Bell.

Guess what, there is always something interesting happening. Have you heard of the movie, Microcosmos? It's a gorgeous documentary showing insect life. Who knew there was so much wonder in grassy bits around me? I rarely think of it. In fact I miss out all the time.

With my typical subject matter, there is so much interesting around me that something nearby already has the "perfect" light, waiting for me to notice. If I'm in a state of mind to appreciate what's around me, then I just need to look. There's so much unplanned goodness that I have too much to photograph before I'm in a situation where I feel the need to plan for lighting.

Reader Comments (3)

Haven't been over here for a while. Paul Butzi linked to thenew Faeries gallery, so I had a look. Nice.

This post really sums up my philosophy on shooting. It's amazing that we think so much alike. Then again, I find your photographs quite interesting, too. Love that last line: "unplanned goodness".

Sometimes it's nice to have the luxury of waiting for the light. Sunsets are more fun than sunrises, but often the prettiest light happens at dawn. Figuring out where to be is just as you described it. Bleary-eyed, cold, and not always what you expected. I've have had instances where something unplanned came out of the disappointment of not getting the light -- my shot "Morning Swim" was like that. A sunrise didn't happen, but then something else did, and my frame of mind was ready to accept an alternate image.

Not the image we came for, perhaps, but something else instead. Something magical. Something interesting this way comes.

August 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjamesparker

What a wonderful read. It has me thinking, thanks.

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternatural spectrum lamp

I was searching for photography when I found your site. Excellent post. Thank You.

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTyson F. Gautreaux

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