The outside privy – St Thomas a Becket Church, Stourton


In This Post
Celebrate the light

One of the things I have missed in the various lockdowns is the ability to just go and take pictures on a whim. Photography as an outdoor activity has many positive benefits for our emotional and physical health.


When I find a subject and light that works for me, I become fully engaged in the moment. This is an old git’s way of saying I become mindful of the camera viewfinder and little else. This mindfulness lark can also be a negative health hazard in harbours and by rivers. I am always very careful to know where I am stepping (backwards) whilst looking through the camera and with an ultra-wide-angle lens.


I have written about the pros and cons of various types of ambient light elsewhere principally in The ABC Manual of CameraWork. But for now, I want to stay with light and shade. The Italians had a word for light and shade – Chiaroscuro. The Japanese had a word for light and dark – Notan.

Poker hand

The hand that ambient light deals you even with the most arduous planning is very often a matter of luck of the draw. If you are in the mountains the weather and light in the next valley can be completely different to where you currently are. This has been my experience when running workshops in Snowdonia. Photographers like David Noton have built a successful career on what they call “chasing the light”. I feel this action is based on the grass is greener somewhere else type of attitude. Sometimes they are right. Other times it pays to be patient and wait where you are if you have the right foreground and background, to begin with.


The quality of light is linked to the position of the Jet Stream*, the weather, cloud cover, air pollution, time of year, time of day. Probably one of the most important factors is your ability to recognise the quality of the light.

The Quality of Light

What do I mean by the quality of light? Good quality light foremostly fits in with the intent of the photographer and also enhances the picture. The light may be from a low angle creating long shadows but if you wanted it dull and flat without any shadows for maximum printable detail then the light is not good for you at that time. An adage comes to mind…

“Amateur’s worry about equipment, Professionals argue about the fee, Masters consider the light”



Over the past week, I have been on the western edge of Dartmoor in Devon. Most of the time I have been using my IR converted X-H 1 with the 8-16mm lens between f2.8 and f5.6. I did a test for IR Hot Spots and found f5.6 was a good place to stop.

St Michaels Church, Brent Tor


My favourite type of light

There is only one thing to say here and that is you get the light you are given at the time or be very patient. My preferred lighting is diffuse side or back-lighting the reason being diffuse light is easier to work with. Hard light with an ultra wide-angle can mean you are also including your own shadow.

*Side note – the presence of the Jet Stream (very high fast winds) was discovered by the US Airforce in 1944 by mistake. Until that date, the concept of the Jet Stream was only a vague theory by Meteorologists. Once they knew it was there it has taken another sixty years to begin to understand its effect on the weather and global warming.