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Food for digital Thought: 10 and 2 Light.

The sun was at '2' on my clock.

The sun was at ‘2’ on my clock.

If you were a race driver you would immediately know what the expression ’10’ and ‘2’ meant. That’s when your left hand is at the ’10’ position on the steering wheel and your right hand is at the ‘2’ position. In the old days, this was the recommended position and all student driver classes taught you to drive this way.

In photography, there’s a term called “The Law of the light”. This is also referred to as “The Angle of Reflection”, although I’m not sure why since it doesn’t cover the full meaning? What this does means is that when light falls (incident light) on a subject it falls at a particular angle. This is called “the Angle of Incidence”. When this light bounces (reflects) off this subject, it also bounces off at a particular angle and is called the Angle of Reflection. When both the Angle of Incidence and the Angle of Reflection are the same, you are in The Law of the Light.

Have you ever driven by a tall glass office building and noticed that at a certain point the glass seems to glow, and as you pass by that point the glow fades away? That’s because at that point in time both the angle from the light falling on the building and the angle of the light reflecting off it to your eyes were the same. Well, imagine having a camera in your hand and you happen to record it…pretty dramatic, right?

I use this same law when shooting environmental portraits, as it’s my favorite way to light people. Imagine a clock in your viewfinder and placing your subject in such a way (right in the center of the clock) as to have the source of the light coming from either ’10’ or ‘2’.  What this does is to create a rim of light that runs down the person’s face and body. It adds a dramatic gesture that seems to add to whatever facial expression, or body language that the subject is communicating. In my online class with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops, we spend time working on this lighting concept.

In the photo above, I positioned the girl so I would have the sun not only back-lighting the water, but at ‘2’ on the clock in my viewfinder to get that wonderful rim lighting on her profile.

FYI, because of air bags installed in current model cars, the recommended position of the hands is now ‘9’ and ‘3’.

Here’s some examples of the light coming from ’10’or ‘2’ position:

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and be sure to check out my new 2014 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. I have four spots left for my Maine Media Workshop, a great place to immerse yourself in photography. It’s the same week as the Lobster Festival down the road in Rockland and the State Fair in Bangor, it offers a entire different genre that the locations Maine is best known for. Everyone eats at the Homestead where there’s always photography talk going on, interesting film and photo shoots everywhere, and an incredible amount of energy. I have just one spot left for my trip to Cuba in November, and three spots left for my coordinated trip with Epic Photo Tours in Myanmar. I very excited to visit this fabulous country rich in photo opportunities. Come shoot with me sometime.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and receive a video critique.


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    { 6 comments… add one }
    • Valeriano April 24, 2014, 7:57 am

      Hi Joe,
      the one with guy cleaning the airplane (as well as all the other ones) has much more than just the law of light going on.
      Did you told the guy to have that tube rolled to form a circle shape on purpose, or was it just by “accident”?

      • Joe April 24, 2014, 10:04 am

        Good questions Valeriano.

        As i always tell people…”I don’t photography what I see because I rarely see what I want; so I photograph what i’d like to see.” The loop in the hose was intentional. I also had him turn his face so I could get that light on him. In every photo you see, everything was staged and shot to look like it wasn’t.


        • Valeriano April 24, 2014, 11:38 am

          …The difference between taking a snapshot and “making a photograph”.  That circle is a “twin” of the airplane turbine. Really cool idea. 

          • Joe April 24, 2014, 1:47 pm

            You’re right. It’s also about “Stretching Your Frame of Mind”, which happens to be the title for my workshops!!!


    • Toad Hollow Photo May 1, 2014, 3:52 pm

      Great post, Joe, I’ve really expanded my understanding of the concept of taking advantage of specific lighting conditions through your article here.  I also have to say that your accompanying photographs are just awesome.

      • Joe May 2, 2014, 4:50 pm

        Thanks Scott. How’s your work and fine Art doing?


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