Photographing light …

Time for more photographs and less talk in this blog.

I’ve been doing some printing lately, and have a lot to do in the near future.  So, why not feature some images.  Not without some talk, however.  It will be mostly about the picture, with not much other stuff. Three reasons for that:

  1. I don’t find “tech” (i.e., which camera, lens, film, developer, paper, etc.) relevant in most cases,
  2. non-photographers (and many photographers) don’t care, and
  3. I honestly don’t remember a lot of the time.

This first photograph is the most recent printed in the darkroom (accountants call that LIFO), but it’s actually an older negative – on the high side of 40 years ago.  I don’t know exactly, since I kept very poor records back then, but I’m going to say early 1970s.


There is no source of light in this photograph other than the flame.  It is entirely lit by the flame.  The background was probably not flat black, it was just far enough away that it did not register on the film with only the illumination of the flame.  The glow of the candle wax itself is from the flame.

The candle is about 1½ inches across.  It’s more or less 1:1 “life-size” on the negative.  This is a square medium format negative, obviously cropped a bit.  The camera was my Mamiya twin lens.  This bit of tech is relevant only to say that I made use of the built in bellows for the close-up; but of course, had to adjust for the parallax difference of the viewing lens. (Don’t know what that means? Just ignore …)

Why I like this picture, besides the graphic nature of it, is the light.  Much is made about photography being all about light.  It’s true that photographs cannot be made without light, but it’s often worded as if the light itself is the subject . “Photograph the light …” is a common saying.

One of these days, I may do a whole studio series where I photograph “lights”: bulbs, lamps, ceiling fixtures, etc.  It may be a joke on one level, but also an exercise in seeing – and capturing light – on another. The light source as the subject, just as in this candle flame.

I think this image is really a good example of the essence of a black and white photograph. Especially of “the light”.



PS: I am not making fun of Master printer Les McLean.  He is a friend and a formidable darkroom printer.  I am proud to both know him and to own an autographed copy of his book.


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