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 Nature Photography :: Essays :: It's the Light that Matters


Luminous Stream

In my haste to be elsewhere I nearly passed this scene by. I stopped and watched for a minute or two, intrigued by the luminescence of the water as it lay in interconnected terraces. Then, with thoughts of grand mountain vistas from a nearby ridge, I turned and continued walking.

Call it fate, or the sound of the tinkling stream, but at this time I felt the call of nature. One does nothing of this kind in a hurry when dressed for the mountain cold, and by the time I'd dealt with the matter I decided I would be too late to catch the sunrise.

Returning to the creek I stood and watched again, low on film I had to be sure in my mind that this would make a worthwhile image. I exposed a single sheet and marked it for normal development.

Later in the day I passed this spot again on my way to Mt Twynham. The rocks, water and grass had not changed, but the light had, the scene was flat and uninteresting.

Similar situations have happened to me many times, Wet Round Rocks, a fine photo at 8:30am was a total non event at 8:35 when the sun had risen further and dried the rocks.


Wet Round Rocks

Forms in Rock, really interesting on the morning of the 1st February 1994 was worth little more than a cursory glance on my next visit to Granite Bay a year or so later.


Forms in Rock

What's changed? What's different about the subject in these cases?

How is it that one can return time and time again to the same location and still get different photographs?

The answer is not to be found in the subject but in the light reflecting from it. Five minutes or five years later, it doesn't matter, the same subject can look entirely different.

That's one of the beauties of photography, and one of the reasons that it is not necessary to travel vast distances to make fresh images.

Always keep in mind that, as a photographer, you do not photograph objects, you photograph the light reflected from them.

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