Practice 23

Seeing the Light

What does that mean?
Sharpen your vision
Treasure light
Seeing the light with all its implications is a pretty loaded phrase. But I can’t help believing that using one’s camera to capture light (the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible) and the idea of, “seeing the light,” used in a spiritual sense is no coincidence. Have I come to believe that through this practice of using a camera to fully focus on what a person finds beautiful or compelling and capturing that light is a way one might connect to the divine? Obviously, I have. I am not suggesting we turn away or block out of our consciousness what is disturbing and only photograph what pleases us. Indeed, as we sharpen our ability to see what moves us, we will be able to look more directly at and photograph, if appropriate, what troubles us.
Then we can think about what we can do to change those things and act. Right now, though, let’s keep ourselves focused on light, today specifically, on different sources of light. This practice must be done inside, best in a place with many different kinds light. You’ll be surprised, though, how many light sources are inside your own home, even if it is a small apartment. Point your camera first at the light itself and next at the way it illuminates what’s around it. Start with natural light, the light coming through the window. Then artificial, there are light bulbs of countless colors, beams, shapes, and intensity: incandescent, LED and halogen. Photograph them bare and inside shades and fixtures to show they light what is near.
As you work with different light sources, you will understand the way those sources impact the way you see. Without light, we would not see at all. When I think about light as I often do when I am shooting, I feel grateful both for the gift of light and the gift of sight. Something none of us should take for granted. Photograph fluorescents in overhead fixtures. Notice how evenly their light spreads. Some are cool blue, others warm. As you work, think about the quality of the light, if it is soft or harsh, if it casts dark shadows or lights evenly. If you are interested and have more time, choose a room you can darken, turn off all the lights. Study the differences. Try lighting a few candles and ask someone to get close enough for the candles to light their face. They cast such a beautiful light.