Keeping it Natural

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tommclaughlin
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Joined: 10/26/2007 - 5:27am
Keeping it Natural

Whenever possible, I use natural light in my photography. I much prefer it to artificial light which, if you think about it, hasn’t been around very long. Thomas Edison patented the light bulb in 1879 during the lifetime of my great-grandparents. We’re not sure how long humans like us have been around; recent discoveries in Morocco indicate about 300,000 years, so artificial light is very new in a relative sense. Before Edison, the only light we had to operate between sunset and sunrise was some sort of flame from candle, lamp, or lantern, all of which I would characterize as natural.

Artificial light improves our lives and we all use it every day, but it always feels unnatural to me and feeling is a big component of photography as I like to do it. Although I spent several hundred bucks on an artificial flash unit to photograph my loved ones indoors in the low light of our long, Maine winters, I only use it when I have to. As digital photography keeps improving, I use it less and less.

People have asked me to photograph weddings and I’ve obliged a few times, but I don’t anymore. That’s work, and it diminishes the enjoyment of taking pictures for me. I only want to shoot what I want to shoot, so it’s been more than thirty years since I’ve done it for hire. Recently I’ve begun uploading a few images to Shutterstock, which is an online site for selling them. If others will pay to use pictures I’ve already shot that’s fine, but I’ll retain ownership and continue to shoot only what inspires me. I’ve donated images to non-profits and I’ve allowed National Review and other publications to use some, but I’ve never charged for them.

Perhaps the best natural light conditions I ever encountered were in Santorini, Greece. Our two days there had plenty of June sunshine and people are required to paint their houses and businesses white. Some cyan and light pink and blue are allowed now but all reflect light very nicely. Nearly every building perches on the steep rim of a volcanic crater high above the sea which reflects light upward. It’s photographer heaven and I shot hundreds of pics — of which about ten I’d consider high quality. Shutterstock already has over 82,000 pics of Santorini but I think mine will compete.

The rest is here.