The Logic of Light
The aesthetic consistency of a photograph is determined by the balance between the composition of the elements, and the logical harmony of lights. As Joe McNally said, “The light follows a logic and it has to come from somewhere and something has to produce it”.
Uyuni Salar, Bolivia
Reading the light, Type of light
This premise, seemingly obvious and overwhelming, is always true in nature, no doubt, where the light falls on all objects producing four manifestations of light and shadow:
A. The lighter shade, where the light falls directly,
B. Dark tone corresponding to the shadow where objects block light,
C. The light or reflected light, corresponding to the incidence of light over multiple objects and bouncing off each other, and are known as medium gray,
D. The crest or hump shade of light between the light and the reflected light on the more rounded shapes, corresponding to darker shade lower tones.
Thus, all objects will reach a volume according to the light that reach them. This easy classification do not correspond linearly with the real light in nature, since direct or filtered light (by atmospheric phenomena such as fog or objects such as tree leaves), is producing a very wide range of tones and intensities in the colors and even in volumes. However, the light always follows an overwhelming logic and the photographer must scrutinize and study the light, and must understand it,… and find the logic of the light.
Roque Bentayga, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
Processing an image… don’t become drunk with processing technology
This obvious assumption is in danger when an image is processed. The rationality of light must always be present when a image is processed, and this is where we should be more attentive to solve the unknowns that light proposes to us, and reach the optimal solution of the equation that light propose in the whole image: the logic of light.
Pine tree forest, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
Abusing the virtual tools to process an image, can ruin a good picture, because any inconsistency with this balance of light generate a discordant point, which will create visual tension and cause a significant imbalance in the rational reading of photography, whatever the smaller this discrepant point can be.
Solid objects do not filter light, reflections in the water should not be brighter than the light that falls over them, the light filtering through the leaves of the trees can not be more intense than that not filtered ones, and reflected light dark areas (such as cave walls or shadows over objects) can never be equal in quality to direct light … These are some of the inconsistencies that can be observed occurring very frequently in the edition of nature photography, as a consequence of forgetting the complex balance of light observed when the image was taken. The result can be to create a chimera of light with the abuse of the virtual tool.
Ånderdalen Natl. Park, Senja Island, Norway
The subtlety showing light in photography, avoiding the excesses when processing, is definitely the successful image. It is important to keep the cause-effect relationship, the consistency of the shadows, the delicacy of the reflections … The light cannot be subjected to inconsistent loops, or forced to absurd limits. The light is too delicate and it cannot be changed subjectively without breaking the harmony of the picture. We should not impose on other light than standard light logic, natural …
Determining the limits
So, what can we do to keep the consistency of light within an image? In my opinion it is very simple: avoid the use of “lights and shadows” tools, process the image as a whole and not by specific zones. Spend time to examine the whole photography slowly and in detail. Close your eyes and try to re-construct the image in your brain. If you have problems in any zone, this means that your brain is not in agreement with that zone… then, go back there and try to be honest with the temptation of over-process that part of the photography… and always enjoy with what you are doing…
Brocken Spectre, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
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