Light as subject - Sherbrooke Village Blacksmith Shop

I have almost finished the assignments for this Coursera series of photography courses.  This second assignment for the Photography Techniques: Light, Content, and Sharing course was light as subject.

There were a few requirements:

  • The essential element of the photograph should be the effect of a light source
  • The light could not be from a flash
  • The subject could not be a sunrise or sunset
  • The photo should follow composition guidelines

Also, the theme for the assignment was “Light my Fire”, which I didn’t really pay attention to while planning the shots, or even deciding the one I would use. However, after choosing the photo, and then beginning to prep this post, I realized it was perfect!

A Love of Natural Light

For the longest time, I dreaded low-light shooting situations. I hated (and still do!) carrying around a tripod, had no interest in learning about lighting set-ups, and found the pop-up flash super boring and annoying. All of that pretty much meant I needed to avoid most low-light situations.

Light as subject in NicaraguaBack in 2013, when I bought my new camera, I also picked up a 50mm prime – a nice, fast lens that, in the right hands, was great for this type of photography. (It was a very expensive shopping trip, as I had only gone in to replace a broken kit lens and came out with the replacement, a new camera and the 50mm!) It’s not auto-focus, though, and I didn’t really play with it much until I travelled to Nicaragua the following summer. We shot a lot of portraits, including quite a bit inside homes lit only by windows and candles. I expected those excursions to be a waste of time for me, but was amazed at the results.

The light was beautiful and everyone lit by it was beautiful!

Although I’m not a fan of portraits, I’ve tried to remember the techniques I learned on that trip. Since then, I’ve taken a lot of photos with light as subject, in this and other styles. It’s a fun subject to play with and I plan on experimenting with it more.

Light as Subject

As I mentioned last week, I shot my assignments at Sherbrooke Village Museum. As with the Nicaraguan homes, the light in the village buildings – all natural light filtered through the windows and doors – was amazing. I had planned to use one of those shots, like the shadow shot I posted upon my return, for the assignment.

Then I saw the photos from Assignment Day that I took in the Blacksmith shop.

Well. There’s really no question, is there? Sparks flew! Fire light as subject!

Light as subject - Sherbrooke Village Blacksmith Shop

There is so much that I love in this picture.

I love the light of the fire in the background. The glowing iron. The reflection of the fire on the smithy’s hand and hammer. Even the sparks! (I was so excited to get those sparks. For those that don’t know, I broke my camera early in the trip. Thankfully it still worked, but I was unable to use the burst mode. Though I carefully tried to time the shot, getting those sparks was really blind luck!)

I definitely went for asymmetry with this shot. I wanted the blacksmith out of the picture, but I also wanted the fire in the background. That required the anvil to be off to the side. I knew shooting up (which was another photography goal for that day) would give the shot more interest.

Finally, I love that, although this was a fairly fast shutter speed, (1/80 sec.) you can still see a bit of motion as he swings the hammer. Given the awkward angle I was sitting in, I couldn’t risk going any slower.

The more I look at this photo, the more I love it. Isn’t that an amazing feeling? Share your stories in the comments!

Stay tuned! I’m working on photos and posts about the trip.

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