In Greek myth, Phaethon begs to be able to drive the chariot of the sun across the sky for only a single day. Unable to control the horses pulling the sun chariot, Phaethon dips so close to the earth that he scorches the clouds, and Zeus must strike him back to the ground with a thunderbolt. This mythological hero wanted the light, but didn’t know how to manage it once he had it.

, How Meg Bitton Shapes a Photographic Vision with Light, Days of a Domestic Dad
Meg Bitton Facebook

 The value of expertise

As her two decades of experience have taught her, photographer and teacher Meg Bitton understands the power of light wielded with a technician’s precision and an artist’s vision. 

Multi-experienced in producing finely etched portraits and other types of compositions, she is also a sought-after digital content creator and a visual storyteller with a deep sense of the transformative potential of photography. 

Her classes, both online and in-person, cover composition, Photoshop editing, and artistic effects for both beginning and advanced students. To these skills, she adds a notable ability to inspire her students to recognize and feed the creative fire within themselves, enabling them to deliver to the world individual visions that capture the best of our common humanity. 

A world nourished by light

Throughout history, artists and visionaries have extolled light’s virtues. In one famous example, the great poet and dramatist Goethe’s last words spoke of his craving for “more light.” 

Light nourishes our whole world, and photography is all about light. The quality of the light we live in can lift or dim our mood in an instant. Likewise, the quality and composition of the light in a photograph, directed by the vision of the photographer, can produce deep and long-lasting effects on an audience. Once properly understood, the power of light is a life-giving and world-shaping power. 

All the light we can see

One of the central tasks of a photographer is learning how to harness light to produce a whole world of visual and emotional effects. The photographer must take care to notice the subtle variations in the types and intensities of available light, both natural and artificial. For those who know the history of photography, it’s often easy to identify a photographer solely based on the way the light falls across a photograph. 

Natural light lends depth and intensity to landscapes, colors, faces, and emotions. It’s essential to learn to choose the right time of day, weather conditions, and vantage point to take advantage of the best light for achieving a particular vision.  

The full sun at midday is a direct pouring of light onto the earth, sharpening shadows and making for extreme contrasts in a photograph. But, like a martial artist, a photographer can lean in to a seemingly negative configuration to shift it to best advantage. They can counterbalance by shooting with the sun behind them or position a reflector to deal with too much shadow. Alternatively, they can go full-on for the most dramatic visual textures inherent in the surrounding contrasts.

There are the shades of gray that lie under a blanket of clouds, when the light blunts forms, softens edges, and flattens contrasts. A reflector can also be the best antidote here.

The “blue hour,” just before sunrise or just after sunset, can bring a sense of calm magic to a photograph. This light is gentle and can grace a subject with an even, silken tone. 

Sunrise itself gives a photographer the chance to shoot a landscape newly washed in all the softness of a new day. This warm, gentle light brings out textures in a subtle way, and the dappling patterns of the sunlight can form the basis for especially rich effects.

Then there is the “golden hour.” At this almost mythical moment, very shortly after the sun rises or just before it sets, everything comes together—subject, background, light, depth—beneath a soft, warm, golden halo of light. This light seems to confer a vision of perfect balance and harmony, enhancing natural textures and allowing for numerous creative effects.

For the photographer who becomes a patient student of nature, nature will speak in all these languages of light.