Technical Tips: Light

Sean Schuster's Canyon of Gold displayed in a restaurant

“The sky is the source of light in Nature and it governs everything” – John Constable 

The power of light and all its qualities are immediately evident when looking at photographic artwork. I take careful consideration when deciding the amount of light I allow through the lens. We are all lucky to have state of the art, high quality cameras in our pockets. This reality sometimes creates misconceptions towards the complexity and strategy that goes into photographic artwork! 

In the wise words of National Geographic photographer, Dewitt Jones, “Regardless of where you are in photography; beginner, advanced, amateur, or professional; vision without techniques is blind. No matter how beautiful the conception, a good image will not manifest without good technique.” The technique of course is ‘exposure’, the amount of light which reaches your camera sensor or film. Exposure is a crucial element when it comes to determining how dark or bright the final product will be. Not only does exposure time lead to various tones of the image, it also affects the “look”. Depending on the exposure time and shutter speed which is eventually decided, the photographer’s image of a water fall could be stopped dead in its tracks lacking any movement and look stagnant OR hold the illusion of silky, falling water like my image taken in 2016, ‘The Hidden Gem’.

Every photographic decision is an artistic one… If the photographer has the camera set to auto exposure, they have handed a crucial human element over to a computer chip! I want all control when it comes to my artistic photography. Guests who visit The Sean Schuster Gallery located in downtown Victoria, will immediately recognize the labour of love in each of the artworks hanging on the wall. With a prolonged exposure time, one can see the incredible results in “Pacific Dreaming”. This coastal Vancouver shot invites the viewer to step into an environment of seemingly low hanging fog when in reality it’s simply the subtle movement of the water captured within a lengthy exposure time. I could then contrast this decision with a shorter exposure time, a slower shutter speed and create an almost moving wave progressing along the sandy shores of Hawaii in “Island Dreaming” or the painterly effect used in “Rip Curl”

Many visitors ask where I went to school for photography and are shocked to learn that I have no formal training! When asked this question I generally point at one of the pieces on the gallery wall. The locations I have spent extensive time are where I’ve learned the craft and is where I continue to learn. The use of light is a universal idea throughout the art world and is something I provide to collectors through my imagery. 

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