Behind the Lens: Find the Light & Shoot What’s in It

by Mark Bowie | Photography

Photograph by Mark Bowie


Find the Light & Shoot What’s In It

Exposure Data:
10 Seconds, F/4, ISO 100
Nikon D80 Camera, Nikkor 12-24mm lens at 12mm

National Geographic photographer Michael Melford, who did a photographic feature on the Adirondacks for that magazine, has a friend who shares this advice: “Find the light and shoot what’s in it.” I recall it often for my own work. There are four sources of light in this image: the atmosphere’s ambient light, the fireworks, my camera’s flash … and lightning, which is illuminating the clouds from within.  The enthusiastic young girls were amongst a sizable crowd gathered to celebrate Independence Day during the Colton Country Family Day fireworks display at Fireman’s Field. So, we were all watching fireworks during a passing lightning storm. At least it wasn’t raining!

To capture the night’s light, I set a 10-second exposure at a wide aperture, with the camera on a tripod. My D80 was subject to lots of digital noise at elevated ISOs, so I purposely kept that low. Hoping to add some fill light to the foreground, I raised the camera’s little pop-up flash. It fired as the exposure began, with the added benefit of freezing the spectators’ motion. My lens hood cast a shadow from the flash over the legs of the girl in the middle, and she moved out of the frame shortly after the flash fired. Consequently, her lower half didn’t register—a rather ghostly effect.

Family, friends, fireworks and … lightning. What a way to celebrate. Happy 4th of July, and stay safe!

Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and a much sought-after public speaker, offering presentations for conferences, camera clubs and other groups. He is a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute. API’s summer and fall workshops are still on, but are subject to change as health conditions warrant. For the latest information, see API’s website:, or ask to be added to the contact list. And please visit Mark’s newly launched website, www.markbowie.comto view image galleries and keep abreast of his workshops, presentations and product releases.

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