The Evolution of Light
Photography, at its most basic level, is the art of light. The very essence of a photograph is almost always determined by the type, quality, and direction of light illuminating the subject. Sure, composition is critical and subject matter is obviously important. But a stunning landscape can be rendered much less spectacular with the absence of quality, interesting light. Conversely, the most mundane of subjects can make stunning photographs under the right conditions and light. There are two things that I’ve learned about light on my short photographic journey: it is ever-changing and don’t give up on it. The latter is a tougher pill for me to swallow sometimes so the focus of this post will hone in on the dynamic nature of light.
This past December I decided to take a jaunt up to the West End Bridge for a sunrise session. Sunrises can be hit or miss, especially from the West End, because if there is no cloud coverage the light can be kind of uniform and bland with just a slight band of color near the horizon. Luckily for me, this December sunrise was an absolute stunner.
I arrived on the bridge a shade before 7 AM and I could tell the conditions were shaping up to be great. The clouds were perfect, the reflections in the river were crisp and pristine, and the light…well the light was some of the best and certainly most dynamic light I’ve witnessed in Pittsburgh. The seven proceeding photos were taken over 53 minutes and exhibit just how much the light can change and shape the mood, feel, and look of a scene.
As you can see, the skyline was the only constant. The light changed at least 7 times, 5 of which were significant changes, within my hour of shooting. The light was not only shaped by the position of the sun relative to the horizon, but also by the arrangement of the clouds. Had there been no clouds, I would not have seen the pink, purple, and red light being reflected by the rising sun. So next time you see a beautiful sunrise (or sunset), make sure you see it all the way through. Who knows how much it will change over the course of just one hour!?