The Secret Sauces of Life and Photos
When you walk towards the sun, your shadow follows you from behind, never leaving you alone. If you stop, turn your head, your shadow is still there, and if you move forward, it moves with you. A shadow only disappears when the light that casts it fades away, as just like life itself, a shadow needs light to survive—both are the secret sauces of life and great photos.
As a photographer we must fully understand shadows and light in order to appreciate what they bring to our art besides chiaroscuro. We’ll start first with shadows, which not just people, but all living and man-made things will cast at least once in their lifetime.
Shadows don’t last forever, but they do return. They come in various shades of gray way beyond 50, and most shadows change their size throughout the day, especially outdoors when the sun rises to when the sun sets. With a flick of the switch, shadows can instantly appear and disappear just as fast when the switch flips back. In the arts of painting, photography, videography, and cinematography, shadows create illusions of depth.
Shadows are in our bodies too, as evidenced by x-rays. Some of us will walk in the shadows cast by others while some of us will create those shadows. One thing for certain, if we nod our heads in affirmation, our shadows will always agree with us, if we turn our heads to the left and right in disagreement, our shadows will always support our decisions. Shadows will lay but not lie.
In high contrast light, shadows are hard while in low contrast light they are faint and soft. They are the reaction of the action of light and are either created or eliminated. Some shadows can provide mystery, mood, while others create a place for evil to exist, or provide a vantage point for future success. Shadows weigh nothing, but their mere existence can provide heavy weight in the outcome. You can find them in in the reflections of a mirror, but they can disappear through glass. A shadow-less world exists on the dark side of the moon or in inactive lava tubes on earth.
Now that shadows are outlined above, let’s look at light. Whether it’s hot or cold, light is either continuous or intermittent. We can experience warmth through some light, while other light is cool. Camera flash is normally colorless to the human eye though we can create color with light and gels. Light is a source of energy and light can deplete energy too. For some, light is a luxury even in poorly lit areas. There is strength and weakness in light, and though it provides life for the most part, light can destroy life too.
Without light, we have darkness, though light can create dark shadows too. Light is the lifeblood to a photo like blood is to our bodies. Illusions sometimes are created by light, but light itself is not an illusion. We can direct light, though it can work indirectly too. When we create form in art we use light alongside the shadows it creates. Light travels and it fades, but when it’s red, it can stop cars, but like shadows, light doesn’t discriminate.
Sometimes we see light, but without light nothing is seen. Light is reflected, deflected, and can cause instant reactions, plus it comes in all sizes, shapes and forms, but weighs practically nothing. Some people are known to go crazy with too much light or no light at all. It’s possible to direct or redirect light as needed, though in it’s purest form, light comes naturally. The light around us is either natural, ambient or in an existing form. Sound and light are made up of waves that can travel, but light is faster plus it can travel in a vacuum, sound cannot.
On the lighter side of things, light can add mood or an ambience to our environment making things feel romantic, though on a stormy day, intermittent light has the possibility of electrifying life with powerful energy. Flashing light can cause us to pull over or help us in a life-threatening emergency. A straw will bend in water through light refraction, while light will emit a form of energy from fire or flame.
Besides using light to illuminate their subjects, photographers can paint with light too. This is part of understanding light while not forgetting about the shadows—and I bet, if you look, especially if you’re facing light or sunlight, you’ll see your shadow is still behind you! Shadows and light are the secret sauces of life and your photos.
With that I close, and as always, I ask you not to forget them men and women who serve boldly plus proudly to protect our nation—God Bless them all, plus their family and friends, Rolando.