Chasing the Ambient

I started out out, like most people with a camera, just shooting pictures with natural light. I hadn’t yet got to grips with flash and I loved the simplicity and spontaneity of daylight.
I served my apprenticeship on the ambient. Forever studying the play and complexity of light, I developed an awareness of it that is now like a ‘sixth sense’.
I see the world in the way the light transforms it.
There are so many things in a room I fail to notice but light is definitely not one of them.
Ironically there are now so many aspiring photographers and film makers that I meet who just want to fast track their way into the business of making images.
Bypassing the process of learning the most basic concepts of light and an ability to craft a still image they just want to race on to ‘higher’ things.
For me, as a photographer, the road to ‘higher’ things was a long, hard and challenging ride.
When I finally achieved commercial success and moved into global advertising my world was flooded with flash…..Assistants, light meters, strobes, flags, soft boxes, – the whole caboodle needed to produce the slick glossy images that I was tagged with.
As a photographer if I get asked one question more than any other it’s…….. ‘how do you achieve the ‘flash’ in your pictures?
Nobody really wants to know how – they just want to be told the formula and move on.
And that’s the point…how can you understand the use of artificial light if you have no knowledge of the natural?
So that’s my advice…start with the the most basic and beautiful light there is – daylight, and work your way on from there.

portrait by John Hicks portrait by John Hicks

portrait by John Hicks


One Response to “Chasing the Ambient”
  1. Jeff Orig says:

    Interesting. It reads almost like a poem.
    I see it as a never-ending journey in learning. I used to study martial arts and my master told me that the whole colored belt thing is a modern convention. It originally started out that martial artists had only a white belt. But as they practiced it naturally changed color from white to yellow to green to red to brown to black. It changed because of the grass stains, the blood, or the dirt. It was a reflection of how they trained.

    Then, eventually, once it turned black that was only the beginning of the training. The belt would start to fray and come apart. At that point, it became white again.

    Your post reminds me of that story.

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