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As somebody who finds it very challenging to manipulate light in photographic scenes to suit my tastes – especially as I tend to travel light without much lighting equipment, I was quite happy to stumble accross a guide by Mitchell Kaneshkavich called ‘Seeing the Light‘ and devoted to ‘making the most of available light and minimal equipment.' Like me, Mitchell is somebody who loves travelling and knows the value of taking as little gear as possible. Lugging around a huge pack even in your own home town isn't fun, but it can be torture overseas. I was therefore hoping that his guide would help me out.
A quick google of Mitchell's name revealed that he has been the winner of the 2009 Sony Exposed competition as well as being an excellence award winner from “Color” magazine in the USA. He also shoots for Getty and has been on the cover of or featured in half the photography magazines I read! In short, he knows what he's talking about.
The book itself is intelligently divided into three sections corresponding to the three main lighting situations you are likely to find yourself in – The Flash, The Reflector and Natural Light.
Michell covers both the equipment he uses as well as the theory and techniques behind their use. I found his explanations of choosing appropriate flash settings and adjusting the light quality with flash gels to be quite informative and the results he gets (and shows you how to get) with such a small amount of lighting equipment are quite spectacular.
Where it really shines though is how he uses diagrams to explain his incredible results. From showing you a very impressive image, Mitchell's diagrams show exactly where and how the flash was set up and where any natural light was coming from (seperate diagramns show both side and top view). Of course all of the other camera settings are there too. This is extremely useful as it allows you to immitate his entire setup!
Another compact piece of equipment that Mitchell carries on his travels is a basic 42 inch 5-in-1 reflector for reflecting the natural light. Again, his results from using this extremely basic piece of equipment are impressive and again, they are accompanied by those incredibly useful diagrams laying out where exactly the reflector was when he took each shot and where the natural light was coming from.
Accompanied again by some impressive images taken on Mitchell's travels, this section is still very useful, but I didn't find it quite as helpful as the other chapters. Mainly this was due to the fact that this chapter only had two of the diagrams that by the previous chapter, I had come to really enjoy (I think I spent as much time looking at the diagrams as I did reading the rest of the book). This chapter on natural light only has two of those diagrams though in reality they are more useful when explaining flash and reflector setups. Still, it has some solid explanations of choosing shooting times and anticipating lighting conditions.
The visual appeal of the images is what grabbed me at first about Mitchell's book. I wanted to know exactly how he got the image on the cover (and then how he got the great images inside the book). I wasn't disappointed because he gives the entire playbook away. Perhaps my main criticism is that there are a few images in the book that I would have love to have seen a corresponding diagram for. Even so, it's a great book and one that will certainly help my low light shooting.
Mitchell has kindly agreed to share the proceeds of any purchases you make on his site with Light Stalking so we can keep bringing you more photos and articles.
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