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The Irony of Light in Photography and Life (and Other Truths I Have Learned Along the Way)


We can learn a lot from our camera and the principles behind it. It is a complicated beast, full of intrigue and power. It can freeze time. Its images can provoke all kinds of empathy and emotions. It has the power to make me invisible and turn me into a temporary superhero, able to climb ropes and move much faster than I ever could in real life due to the adrenaline rush. However, there is such a connection to this mechanical friend of mine. It has taught me some things that have truly resonated in my real life, things that I have learned quietly over time along my journey as an artist.

What is light? Have you ever really thought about that maybe what your camera is telling you can be applied to your life? The heart of the camera is light. How much do you let in? How do you let it in? How do you align your numbers to make the best image possible? There is a quality of light. What is your light? Where is your light? Where does your light come from? What happens if you go dark….These same questions can be asked of you in your life as you know it. If your heart was your f stop what would that look like? Are you open to receiving love and light in your life? What brings you so much joy that you shine brightly? What is it that brings your spirit down and your light grows dim? Sometimes I imagine that my heart is wide open and that I am letting everything in, but I know that life has taught me that my reality is much closer to an f-4. I know this is super deep so I won’t even start talking about the correlation between getting your heart and head to match up and equate it to your manual settings.

The images we capture are full of life. We put so much into it, and the gift is that people share their world with us. They share pieces of their lives.

Everyone is different, and it is our job to find their light. It’s interesting to me when I am culling my images that the best images to me are the ones that are in between the shots I plan. I am an over shooter. I shoot like crazy. I suppose if big brother is watching I look rather ridiculous smiling at my computer while I edit. I can’t help it. I love this career. I love my customers. I am so honored by what they give me. I appreciate that I am there for vulnerable moments and that I was chosen to be part of it. It is fascinating to be part of people’s lives, even if just for a little while. I’ve grown to love my customers and many are on my social media. They have taught me through the lens something so important, so vital, it breathes sustaining life not only into my work but into my personal life as well. The lesson is that the best moments in life are walking in between, the unplanned moments. These are the moments that resonate. The things that make you smile, and if you are open enough to let the light in (did you catch that f-stop reference?), to love.

Over the years my journey has taken me deep into digital art, however, I do photograph a lot of families. Families come together and it’s always a special moment. Children grow, things change, life moves forward. It gets harder with busy schedules to make time for photos. But it’s so important to have these images taken together. And moms, please get in front of the camera. You need to be photographed too. Everyone matters. Together matters, because tomorrow is never promised. So, when I come together with all these wonderful people I have to take a moment and be grateful because I have people to be together with. Because of this inanimate object, people come together, and we will always, always, always be better together.

The last thing my camera has taught me is all about perspective. There is always a new way to see things, literally. I have learned to keep looking. My favorite shot and the best way to see things don’t just happen. It involves searching and researching. It involves information. Learning never stops. I took a class once where we all photographed the same thing. It was amazing how everyone saw it differently. I was so excited to see fresh perspectives. Life is not one color. It’s many colors. It’s beautiful.

So, I am thankful that I have this sweet little device that has taken me on a journey to more self-awareness as well as teach me about the foundations of light in life and photography. I hope we all succeed in life and photography. I hope we all do well and live a life well-lived, full of light and love and the things that bring us together.

Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life – Chinese proverb

Karen Smutz
This article was featured in Summerana Magazine | October 2019 issue

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