Big Lights, Bright City

Light is inseparable from photography. To put it bluntly, without light there is no photography.

From a camera in a phone to the most sophisticated digital capture device, light is needed to record an image.

Everyone has a frame of reference for light. It’s called the sun.

Experienced photographers know that in order to make a realistic photograph, the best practice is to have a starting point of a unidirectional light source.

From there, shadows get filled or emphasized and highlights are added or subtracted. All photographers have their own methodology, often with very strange techniques.

Night time work opens up a new set of possibilities. Starting with a typically dark ambient light, the process of adding light becomes easier.

This portrait that was taken on 46th Street just west of Times Square had a grab-bag of light sources.

The subject was lit with a small strobe but at a very low power output. The highlight on his cap came from a theatre marquee. The highlight on his shirt came from a taxi’s headlight. The background buildings were lit by streetlights and electric billboards.

Finally, the streetlights in the distance were allowed to burn-in. With the shallow depth of field, those burned-in lights take on a look of giant urban fireflies.

In an instant, all that noise of light came together for a brief song of illumination. I was lucky to be there to capture it at that moment.

About the author: I am Stephen Kennedy, an experienced photographer with more than 2500 completed sessions in all 50 US states.

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