The Contrast of Light

We all know that light is the ultimate ingredient for landscape photography. However, I often hear about good or bad light! Is there such thing really? Or should we treat them as variations of light?

Light is the ultimate ingredient when it comes to photography and it is the only factor that should exist in every photographer’s mind before the creation of an image. It is the way that light comes into contact with the subject which, ultimately, will determine the appearance and the final look of a specific subject. This is a fact, and it is the same for all genres of photography, not only for landscape photography. The same subject can look completely different under various lighting conditions and here is an example: the light in a landscape scene will look cool during the day and much warmer during sunset.

When I captured this image of a chapel on the magical island of Santorini in Greece, my intention was to convert it to a black and white image with lots of contrast. I loved the structural lines on the building and believed at the time that a black and white conversion would suit the subject perfectly. The sun was low on the horizon and the light conditions ideal for what I had in mind. Low and direct sunlight can cause harsh lines on a side lit subject, but those lines usually are enhanced and very appealing.

In reality, the exposure is not correct for this image. Inspecting the histogram will reveal that there is not as much information recorded as there should be, but this was intentional, of course. Had I left the camera on auto exposure, the result would display a much brighter image and all those structural lines would have been lost. Instead, I opted to take a spot meter reading from the bright part of the wall. I knew that by doing so there would be black areas in the frame, such as inside the arches. However, there would be a hint of detail still on the dark side of the white wall, and I was more than happy with this.

By choosing to compromise with the exposure in this instance, particularly to emphasise the structural lines, I was able to create the image you see here.

I have mentioned before that there is no such thing as good or bad light, only variations of light. It is up to us to imagine, visualise and decide how we want our subject to look under specific lighting conditions.

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