03. BR – Capturing The Light by Michael Freeman

Anyone starting Michael Freeman’s amazing series of
photography books would start with “The Photographer’s Eye”
followed by “The Photographer’s Mind”. But being a self taught
photographer and knowing very little about light and struggling
with it, I decided to start with Capturing the Light: The heart of
photography, which surely isn’t one for beginners.


The book is divided into three sections: waiting, chasing and
helping the light. All three sections are about natural light, some
with more variants than others. As soon as you reach the table of
contents you’ll be amazed at the author’s observation and the
numerous light situations discussed.
Before reading this book I
only knew two types of light, good and bad. The good light, of course,
golden hour, which is 30 minutes before and after sunrise
& sunset, and the bad light was rest of the day especially mid
noon when the sun is high and the tonal range is way beyond
cameras reach.
After reading this book I can tell the quality and
direction of light and how to react to given light condition. Axial
(front) light for example is flat and shadowless, backlight is good
for silhouettes and translucent objects while bas relief and
embossed surfaces would benefit most from raking (side)
light.
Gray light is not only contemplative but has as many shades
than I could ever observe on my own and shade light is blue, this
is why camera adds a yellow tint in “shade” white balance.
Some
moody light conditions like “blue hour” with small yellow lamp or
candlelight is explained to be a happy complementary color
combination. Some rare situations like patterned light, light shafts
indoors and shaped spotlights coming from pockets of torn pieces
of cloth in a bazaar are discussed at great length.Most of the
lights are explained with wonderful lighting diagrams which is the
best feature of the book and though very few in number the color
abstract diagrams were very interesting too.


Besides light some very important concepts of photography are
discussed. Like tonal range and HDR and how to get rid of flares
resulting from shooting directly into the sun. Compositional ideas

and visual depth are discussed with reference to some famous
paintings like “The Milkmaid” by Johannes Vermeer. Timelapse
photo is a relatively new concept for me and finally Michael
Freeman’s special dodge and burn recipe which looks a lot better
than mine.

Now let’s take a look at where the book fell short. This book could
really do with a chapter about basics of light and the three section
arrangement wasn’t very impressive either. Some lights are very
poorly explained and some aren’t explained at all. Most pictures
especially shooting into the sun could have been more helpful
with EXIF data. Considering this is not a “how to” book and the
fact that you have made it this far in photography, the author
expects you to know camera basics like exposure triangle etc. But
the exif could have helped nonetheless.

Over all this book is about the wide range of light conditions a
new or experienced photographer would come across and will
surely enhance your observation and you will start seeing
opportunities you didn’t know existed and it will help build a
foundation on which you can capitalize throughout your
photography career.

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