Light is the most important aspect of photography. Yet, the vocabulary we use to describe light is quite limited, unlike the two large sensory industries of wine and perfume, which is highly evolved and sophisticated. In addition, some light is considered more attractive or desirable to most photographers, for instance light from the “golden hour” — the approximate time of day when the sun is low and bright, just after sunrise or just before sunset. As a result, our prejudices about good or boring light follow a path that the majority follow. Is that what we want as photographers, to follow the herd?
As photographers, we are bound to light — sometimes waiting for the right nuance of light to cross the path of our subject, or other times frantically chasing after it. When we wait for light, it is because we know what to expect, we are able to anticipate the peak moment when the light and the subject converge to form the best possible photographic experience. We can make a plan of how to approach the situation and when to capture the best possible image. However, when we are chasing light we are looking for those special unpredictable moments that instantaneously coalesce. Knowing how your equipment works is imperative to capturing this fleeting, unusual moment. This is the light that can change the ordinary into the extraordinary, the mundane into the magical. Photographing these fugitive moments of light requires a very active and reactive response, not only from your equipment, but also from your mind-set. Here you need to rely as much on instinct as on experience.
In this series, I have included imagery that captures light at the beginning of the day. I have tried to demonstrate the vocabulary of light rather than write about it. It is my hope that these images will inspire you — wherever you are in the world — to sometimes rise up early in the dawn and explore the infinite variety of light as it first washes down on the earth in subtle nuances of tone and color.