Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Seeing Shadow in a New Light

by Kelly

Shadow owes its birth to light.  John Gay

It's one of my favorite things about my old house...the way the light spills into my rooms.  Especially in the mornings. And I've probably taken a million pictures of it over the last several years.

It used to be, that when I shot these kinds of photos, I would always over-expose them a good bit or lift the shadows in post-processing.  As a light-seeker, I wanted to focus on the light.  I wanted my photograph to tell the story of the light.  And to that end, I thought that I could best tell the story of the light by diminishing the shadow.

But here lately... I don't know if it's because I'm getting older or because I have a little more life experience under my belt.  Or maybe it's because I am growing and evolving as a photographer...who knows.  At any rate, lately I find the shadows to be intriguing - I am learning to appreciate the mood and drama they lend to a photos - and so therefore I do not work to diminish their effect.  I am learning to see shadow differently.

On a histogram, shadow is not the absence of light, but it is at the opposite end of the spectrum from light.  Opposite derives from the word OPPONERE which means 'to set against'.  It has many meanings, but these I found to be of particular interest:
  • opposing
  • diametrically different
  • contrasting
  • conflicting
As I pondered shadow, light, and conflict, it all made sense.  Conflict happens when two opposing forces are set against one another...it is an important element in any good story.  Conflict creates drama and tension in story because it adds an element of doubt.  Conflict makes a story interesting, but it's also important in that is sets up the plot.  Conflict is the root of a story and and it conveys information and engages us in ways that words often cannot.

In Greek literature, the use of conflict as a narrative structure is known as AGON - the central contest - hero vs. villain.  And the hero's ennobling struggle against the protagonist is what they believed made a story worth reading.

Conflict makes a story worth reading.

In photography, shadow serves a similar function.  Shadow is set against the light and therefore creates conflict and tension in an image. There is drama and mystery in the unlit parts of a photo.   But doesn't shadow also tell us something about light? Because there would be no shadow without the light. By its very nature, shadow points to the light.

Shadow tells the story of the light.

I am learning to see shadow in a whole, new light (pun totally intended).   And as I begin to embrace shadow in my photography, I am also learning to appreciate the shadows in my life. I will always be a light-seeker..this is my passion and a guiding principle in my creative vision. But I will no longer avoid the shadowy areas of my life for fear of them. No...from now on, I will acknowledge shadow...I will use shadow...because I know it will point me in the direction of the light.

Until next time,



Carol said...

Kelly, this is a WONDEFUL post! This is writing at its best and your photographs take my breath away. To see life for its shadows and its light and to find the beauty is a task for us all . Thank you for showing us that in such an artistic way.

Dotti said...

Brilliant post! It immediately brought to my mind the Italian word, chiaroscuro, which is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, affecting composition and mood. DaVinci was one of the earliest painters to master this technique and then others followed but the technique is used in a variety of art forms. And, oddly enough, just last week, I found myself experimenting with the use of underexposure while chasing the light around my home and I must say, I was quite pleased with the result. And quite surprised, because like you, I am drawn to light-filled objects and photos. This is one of the things I love about photography - it's a constant learning process.

CarolHart said...

Super great post! We can never have too much discussion about light. After all, light creates the shadows!

Unknown said...

Very nice! Like you pointed out the shadows in our life are something I have learned to appreciate. Its the shadow that enhances the light - how do we appreciate the good if we have nothing to contrast it with? Understanding that the dark times in our life are just as important for appreciation and gratitude. Great post.

Lisa said...

Very nice post. You inspired my daily photo today. Thanks for that.

Cathy H. said...

Wonderful post! You are so right, they always point us toward the light!

terriporter said...

Love this post, Kelly! I love the mystery in the shadows. You can't quite see what's there and are left wondering. It's a great way to draw your viewer in. And the comparison of the light and shadow in photos to the light and shadow in our lives is such a thought-provoking one. I'm one who tries to eliminate the shadows (in my photos as well as in my life) but you have inspired me to welcome them. Your photos are beautiful and such great examples for your subject.

kybarb said...

Intriguing post and photos Kelly! I'll definitely be looking around my home for more interesting shadows and light to photograph. Thanks!

Unknown said...

What a wonderful post this is, Kelly. My thoughts are similar to Dotti's regarding light and shadow in art. I recently read a quote from the Australian artist, Grace Paleg - "The presence of the dark gives the light its quality. Our eyes naturally appreciate the areas of light, but we can only do this by acknowledging the darks." So true in photography as well...and in life too.

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing part of your day with us. If for any reason you are unable to leave a comment here on this post, please leave your comment on our Facebook page or in our Flickr discussion group. We love hearing from you!

© Focusing On Life