Light—Science & Magic

So I have begun to read Light—Science & Magic An Introduction to Photographic Lighting by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver and Paul Fuqua. At first, when I picked up the book and flipped through it, I thought that it would be very dry. Was I ever wrong! I never thought physics could be so interesting. My high school physics teacher (a few decades ago) would have been much more engaging if she had used a book like this, bless her.

One often hears photographers saying that they want to learn how to see the light. Well, this book teaches exactly that. This is the first time I have read (or heard) such a comprehensive explanation. The authors begin by explaining what light is – electromagnetic radiation, how the electromagnetic fields work, the colour of light, brightness, contrast, hard light and soft light. They then move on to explain the basics of lighting: shadows, highlights, transmission of light, absorption and reflection.

Chapter three delves more into reflection, specifically how light is reflected off different subjects or surfaces. It covers the different types of reflection, namely diffuse reflection and direct reflection. Then the maths kick in (though thankfully no calculations are needed) and concepts such as the Inverse Square Law and the Angle of Incidence and the Angle of Reflectance and the Family of Angles are covered. What was extremely helpful were the exercises or experiments I could perform to demonstrate these concepts. There were a few “Aha!” moments for me! The difference between unpolarized direct reflection and polarized direct reflection was also dealt with and now I know how my polarizer is supposed to work so I will definitely be making better use of it than I have in the past. The illustrations on page 45 of the children using the skipping rope were quite helpful, but I wasn’t totally connecting with the concept until I went online and viewed a video on Youtube: Doc Physics – Intro to Polarization Filters! or…why are those sunglasses so expensive? – Doc Shuster, published February 20, 2013 [accessed April 4, 2014].

The magic of the science is coming alive for me and the light has been switched on.

Reference List

Hunter, Fil et al, (2012). Light—Science & Magic An Introduction to Photographic Lighting. 4th ed. Oxford: Focal Press