The Power of Light . . .

“There are two kinds of light – the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures.” ~James Thurber

When I began taking pictures, I quickly learned the importance of lighting. One of the first things I learned was that the best time to take outdoor pictures is during the magical hours (morning and evening) when the sun’s light keeps the colors vibrant and true. And, to avoid high afternoon when the sun washes out color and gives people raccoon eyes. By experimenting with different camera settings and lighting situations, I discovered the power of light to make or break a picture. Light is an amazing thing as it can do more than just light up a subject. Light reflects, shimmers and can create amazing shadows.


“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon

Visual artists of all types know the importance of the combination of light and dark. My students probably get tired of hearing me say .. “You need dark to show light and you need light to show dark”, but it is true. The two work together and seldom alone. Too much light and everything is washed out in a bright whiteness. Too much dark and everything is hidden in shadow. But, just the right amount of both in just the right places, illuminates a picture in beauty.

“Beyond a doubt truth bears the same relation to falsehood as light to darkness.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

In many aspects of life, light and dark are paired together to show contrast, opposites, and conflicts. Many writers and poets talk of light as truth, visibility, awareness, always positive connotations. And they talk of darkness and shadows in terms of unknowns, lies, evil, always bad connotations. In life as in art … dark and light seem to bound together and never alone.

I have had a debate with myself over that statement several times because I want to live in a world of truth, honesty and lots of light. I want what I see to be clear, real and true. However, can life ever be totally illuminated without washing out details or hiding something else in shadows? When the sun shines on a tree, it also provides a shadow on the ground. The focus is on the tree, but things behind and around it are placed in shadow. Similarly, when we learn the truth of something, our assumptions and past beliefs are now in shadow. When a bright light is focused on one aspect of our life, the others are dimmed in shadow.

I think that we need to focus on the lights in our lives, for that is where new life and knowledge will be found. However, after much debate with myself, I have decided that we should not overlook the shadows that the light creates for us. In the shadows you can find past lessons, the building blocks that got us to the light, and sometimes even the beginnings of a new light in our life.

We can learn a lot about ourselves and the lights in our life if our vision holds for us a healthy combination of light and dark. A bright focus with shadows to support it and make it shine. We can help others see themselves and life better if we help to spread our light, too.

“There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” ~Edith Wharton

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~ by bearyweather on July 16, 2011.

12 Responses to “The Power of Light . . .”

  1. Your photographs are superb, so I’d say you’ve learned quite well how to work the light to your advantage. I have a simple camera that I can use automatic or manual settings. I like my photographs on auto because the colors are natural. My hubby likes to mess with the settings which I think exaggerates the colors and makes them look fake. I like natural!

    • Thanks, I am glad you liked them. However, I am still far from an expert, you only got to see some of the best ones. Learning requires me to take hundreds of pictures trying different things to get the look I want. I keep my camera on one of the automatic settings if I think I might miss a shot (the animal is going to run away) … but, when I have time (like the bleeding heart picture) I play with the settings on my camera and take many pictures. With some colors (like the red roses picture) keeping my camera on automatic I could not get an accurate red color … I had to play. Having time and the ability to try different things is the key for me to getting some great pictures.

  2. Hi Bearyweather, quite an informative post which sheds light on so many concepts. Indeed, if I think over, light and darkness play an abundant role in our life. yes, I agree that we must focus more on the light where new life and knowledge will be found! thank you for sharing the good thoughts!

    • Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I agree, the topic of “light” is a huge topic … I edited and tossed out a lot of my words … I see more posts related to this in my future, my mind is still working through the concepts.

  3. A thoughtful and enjoyable post as always. 🙂

  4. Another thought-provoking, beautiful post. Your photos are wonderful, showing both the light and the shadow.

    • Thanks for the compliments, it means a lot coming from someone who takes such wonderful picture herself 🙂
      … I am behind on my weekly photo challenge. “Old-fashioned” was last week and I saw nothing to take a picture of … I am still looking. This week is “HOT” and it has to be the hottest days of the year here … it is a miserable humid/ heat combination with heat indexes about 115 (and I don’t have air conditioning) … showing “hot” when I am feeling so miserably warm is not very appealing.

  5. Hi Bearyweather, I accidentally posted my reply to this in the comment space for your post on Strawberries. My bad. In any event, I loved reading this post on light. Profound! Have an outstanding day today!

  6. Bearyweather, I so agree with you. This is a wonderful post! Light and dark each have something to show us, something to teach us. Ignoring the shadow is not always the wisest course.

    • Those shadows can show a lot of negative things sometimes, but I agree … we can’t ignore them. A lot can be learned from even the most negative thing.

  7. Great shots, and how timely this post for me. We just purchased 6 acres of bush land (700 feet of shore line on a spring-fed lake) in near northern Ontario, Canada. It’s raw, basically untouched, with some century trees and waist-deep undergrowth. We will build our home there some day. In the meantime people ask for pics, and I was lost as to how the heck to photograph “GREEN” ! You’ve taught me that the key is in the lighting (am/pm) but particularly to create visual tension between light and dark! Thanks

    • Isn’t it great when everything just sort of syncs together? I am glad you found some helpful tips. Sounds like you are beginning an exciting adventure. Have you thought about starting a blog to document the process? You could start with the pictures of how it is right now …. I would love to see what you come up with your light and dark tension. (contrasting colors work, too)
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting … best of luck with your new northern Ontario home.

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