Light Chaser or Light Maker?

Light Chaser or Light Maker?


I was browsing the web the other day, like most days, and I saw the term once again, “light chaser.” A descriptive term used for photographers. It struck a chord in me. If you are a regular reader of the blog or even a follower of my work, you’d know that the vast majority of my photography is not “chasing” light at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I am usually making light to compose my photographs. When I think of a ‘light chaser’ I think of like this herd of photographers roaming the streets, waiting for favorable light, or heck, just keeping their heads on a swivel, looking for chance opportunities where light might be shining a little luck their way. It’s like back in the day when I used to watch the Scooby-Doo cartoon. Remember when they’d usually have a montage somewhere in each episode where the “gang” was running in and out of hallways doors, evading a monster. That’s kinda how I picture photographers when they are referred to as light chasers, just running every which way, literally chasing light around, minus the cheesy music. Ok, leave the cheesy music, it’s a good touch…

Light chasers, there are PLENTY of those out there, I’d actually say most of the photographers out there properly fall into that category. ALL photographers fall into this category at least a bit, but some stray from the pack some or most of the time. Those are what I’d like to lovingly call “light makers.” Why not stay with the little wording theme. Call them lazy, creative, technically sound, or somewhere in between. There is a growing group of photographers out there who not only use off-camera lighting equipment to compose their images alongside ambient light (the sun, constant light sources like indoor lighting, etc.), but will exclusively use only flash-based lighting to make their images. These are light makers. They don’t need any other light around except the gear they bring with them to do the job. Stick them in the lit room or a pitch black space, it’s all the same to them, cause they’ll be making their light today. I’m usually in this category, making light. The only time I’m “chasing” light is when I’m working events or the occasional walk-around photo things. Taking photos with the light around ya is fun and all, but… it’s boring. It’s limited, and I grow tired of it. Yes, you can get some super badass shots “chasing” light all day. Me… I’d just rather setup a light, and make a picture like the one below, one you couldn’t achieve without off-camera lighting. Setting up a light, making light if you will, and bleeding a little bit of the sunset in the background to add some mood. Good luck trying to chase that around town, gang.

These photos, aside from the top one, are examples of both chasing and making light at the same time. The best of both worlds. 🙂 Combining both ambient light and flash lighting to capture images. The very top photo is composed with just flash lighting. Below is a “photo-aware” image of the setup. The sky didn’t really look like that, in fact, it was much brighter, but using off-camera lighting techniques, I cut the ambient light down and got the dramatic color in the sky. Something that solely chasing light can’t achieve. I’d say 90% of the time I’m a light maker, and 10% chasing the stuff around.

Is this a bash on those who are just “light chasers?” Absolutely not, it’s simply a statement on the generalization people make with the label. There are phenomenal photographers out there who have never touched a flash to create all their work, and they made a damn good living as chasers of light. Am I being a little too literal with words, not really, I’m just having fun with it. I think I am kinda speaking out for those fellow “makers” out there. When they probably hear the term “chaser” they probably roll their eyes, look down at their gear bag with light and light modifiers and say “uh, you ain’t gonna see me chasing light, no sir.” At the same time, I’ve never seen one photographer portfolio without use of good ol’ mister sun at least once or twice. That sun and sky can fuse with off-camera lighting to make some great photos. Some of my favorite shots of my own were ones where I was running alongside Scooby, chasing the monster. That monster would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those photographers and their meddling cameras.