“The quality of light in a photograph is meaningless unless it helps to express something!”
Those of us who are landscape photographers are extremely sensitive to the quality of light upon our chosen subject matter. Our sensitivity is based, in large part, on the fact that we cannot control that light but rather must react to it, work within its confines, gleefully accepting the crumbs we are thrown.
But much of what we think of light, much of what we were taught, is wrong. We have been given bad advice. Misled. Bamboozled. We have been told that the “quality” of light is, above all else (above even subject matter), our primary consideration. We have been too strongly encouraged to use only the warm, quiet light near sunrise and sunset, and to ignore the “harsh” overhead light of the noon hours, or the flat, “featureless” light of overcast days. And our photography often suffers for it.
The ironic thing is . . . we don’t actually photograph the light, rather we photograph how that light illuminates our subject matter. It is that resulting interplay of shape and form, light and shadow which, when combined with our vision and purpose, gives significance and meaning to our work. Despite what some may tell us, one size does not fit all. The various factors are too numerous for such a simplistic way of thinking—subject, personal vision, purpose, mood, what we had for breakfast, attitude, how tired we are, etc, all combine with light to, as Mark Citret wrote, “express something.”
So don’t be afraid of noon light, don’t fear overcast days, and don’t think you have to avoid morning and evening light, either. There is no such thing as bad light, only bad advice.
BTW, I own’s Mark Citret’s book, Along the Way, and can say in all honesty that it’s as exceptional as his insight.