Like a Moth to a Flame

Food For Digital Thought: Like a Moth to a Flame

For those of you that follow my blog, you’ll know that I put a lot of time into writing about the Light. You’ll also know that I always will say that Light is everything, unless you’re out street shooting and capturing the moment which can possibly be more important. Humor, is one other genre that can be as effective as beautiful light.

Having said this, that type of light is not the subject of this post. I’m talking about the light that can actually take away from your subject or center of interest. The light that’s not part of your main message but actually competes with it.

Over the past thirty-thee years of teaching my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind”workshops and in the six years of teaching  my online classes with the BPSOP, I seen a lot of photos that demonstrates this phenomenon and have often brought it to the attention of all my fellow photographers.

Just like a moth to a flame, the viewer will be attracted to the brightest part of your composition whether its your subject or not. Just like a moth to a flame, we are drawn towards the light or in some instances the value of a color; value meaning the lightness or darkness of a color. It’s an unconscious effort because it’s inherent in our DNA.

To know the basic reasons is to take a look at human behavior. As a species, we are Diurnal. In simple terms we are day creatures, spending the majority of our waking hours in daylight. As a result, light is an instrument used for our survival; as in sitting close to the fire so the monsters won’t get to you….a residual belief from the pre-historic times when you could be eaten by a really big predator.

So back to my point about light taking valuable information away from your thought process. If you rely on the meter in your camera to make all your exposure decisions (a big mistake) you will undoubtedly run into this. You might have the right exposure on the subject in your foreground, but what about the exposure in the background?

What if you’re shooting under some trees, or in open shade where your subject just happens to be in the shadow. You might get lucky and have your subject exposed correctly but out where the sun is shining it’s three or more stops brighter…making it way too overexposed. The viewer will not look at your subject, he will be drawn to the overexposed area…the not-so-pretty part of your photo.

Changes in the light levels can be an indication that something has happened in the immediate environment. The viewer will rely on the perception of the environment that surrounds him and that’s why he will re-focus his attention on bright areas of light in our images.

As I said, the value of a subject can and will direct the viewers attention away from your subject. A good example would be a group of people in a photo and one of them has a very bright colored shirt on compared to all the others; that’s where the viewer will look.

It’s so important to remember my pearl of wisdom…the whole enchilada. It can become easy to concentrate so much on the message you’re trying to get across to the viewer that you fail to see other things that can take away from the same message you worked so hard to get.

There are some good things you can do with this scenario. By putting the light in just the right place or places you can get the viewer to interact with you. This is one way to get and keep the visual information that we lay out to the same viewer in the form of a photograph.

-BPSOP Instructor: Joe Baraban

Joe Teaches:

Stretching Your Frame of Mind I 

Stretching Your Frame of Mind II

Photographing Landscapes with Post Processing in Mind

Mormon Row Jansen Photo Expeditions

I’m sure you’ve heard this over and over. Landscape photography is about light. Your best option to capture great landscapes is at best 1/2 hour before and after sunrise, and 1/2 before and after sunset. (These times may vary depending on where you are, but this is my rule of thumb.)

If you are on an epic photography journey, this can mean a lot of early mornings, and late evenings. That first moment when you wake up at 4:30 am can be hard, but once you are out and experience the beauty of the sunrise, it will all be worth it. And besides, if you have traveled a long distance to get to an amazing place, why be having breakfast or sleeping when the light is perfect? That perfect light may only last a couple of minutes, but you might capture something to last forever in your photography portfolio and your mind’s eye.

You can’t duplicate this light in Photoshop.

I suppose you could if you tried, but I would rather have the real pallet to paint with light. You never know what nature may throw at you during these magic moments of light, and there are a couple of examples below.

On our recent photography workshop to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, we were there for 10 days. We got up very early every morning to experience what nature had in store for us. We experienced several epic sunrises during this trip. All of them were completely different, and not something that was easily imagined or created in Photoshop.

On our second morning, we headed out to the Mormon Row Barns to experience the sunrise. We were not alone, as there were probably 10 other photographers out there. It’s not our practice to hang out with a large crowd of photographers, but this is an iconic location and we were rewarded with beautiful light.

When I am shooting in this type of environment, I always study the light with the thought of how I will post process it later. The camera sensor cannot pick up the wide range of light that our eye can see, so I frequently take notes on how it looked, and what I will do in post-processing.
There was a moment when the sky lit up a beautiful pink color, but only for a second. There was a little haze and smoke in the sky from a fire in the Southern part of the state, but it only added to the experience and color to our light pallet.

How did I feel so confident that I could reproduce what I saw in Lightroom and Photoshop? My secret weapon is always the histogram. That is the best gauge of the quality of the exposure you are capturing, and whether you will be able to bring down the light and bring up the shadows to the scene that you actually saw.

See my before and after images of the Mormon Row Barns in Grand Teton National Park with the original histogram.

On first look, this image looks underexposed and flat. But take a look at the histogram. Do you see the area in the left side of the graph? There is a little space to the left in the shadows which means there is information there, and that the shadows can be opened up. Notice the area on the right side of the histogram. That is the highlights. So there is plenty of room to adjust there as well without overexposing the image.

And Here is the finished processed image showing the areas where I added individual adjustments. I used the radial filter to brighten up the very darkest areas and the graduated filter to give the sky its dimension. It wasn’t a complicated adjustment process, you just need to look at your images like a painting. Where do you need to add exposure or color to make your creation pop?

On the last day of our trip, we were headed into Yellowstone and rose early once again to catch the sunrise in Yellowstone Canyon. My thoughts were to catch the sunrise and then wait and see if we could catch the full morning light on the waterfall. Once we arrived, we were greeted by a warm glowing light. It was 6:30 am in September, so this was not the sun. It was the moon, lighting up Yellowstone Canyon! It was such an unexpected beautiful surprise.

I shot this image keeping a close eye on my histogram so that I would be able to open up the shadows and enhance the sky in Lightroom. Here’s my before picture with a screenshot of the histogram. You can see with this image it did not require a lot of editing, but once again, I made sure that my histogram was balanced so I would have flexibility when I brought it into Lightroom.

You never know what you will find when shooting landscape photography. Early mornings can be rough, but you never know what you find. It will always be a better image than shooting midday as the light will be soft and the shadows long. Don’t miss those amazing moments. Keep in mind how it really looked, so you can “paint with light” when you bring it home and open it in Lightroom.

If you would like more information on how to create amazing images in Lightroom, take my next Lightroom Quick Start class here at BPSOP.

In this class, I cover the basic tools, so you can use Lightroom as your go-to editing and organizational tool. This 4-week class covers the basics that will get you up and running quickly in an efficient way. Try our next Lightroom class and learn to use the essential program for editing and organization.

BPSOP Instructor – Holly Higbee-Jansen

HollyHolly Higbee-Jansen is photographer, trainer, blogger, and workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process. Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, Costa Rica and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique. Get Holly’s Free E-Book on “Landscape Photography and the Light and find out about her newest workshops at Jansen Photo

Reach Holly by email at and read her blog at:

Holly Teaches:

Lightroom Quickstart


Do you want to learn to create images that show the beauty of the scene you saw when you took the photograph? Do you want to learn the other essential side of digital photography, photo editing and get up to speed quickly?

This course is designed to get you up and running FAST in this incredibly powerful program. In this two week information packed class, you will learn how to import, organize and perform simple and effective editing processes that will let you produce beautiful adjustments to your pictures.

iPhone Photography
In this class, we will introduce you to the magic of iPhone photography using several shooting and editing apps that will give you the ability to make your pictures sing in a fun and easy way. You will learn how to crop, change saturation, brightness and affect the overall look of your pictures with HDR, drama and grunge filters and other techniques. You will be amazed at the simple and effective methods.

Renewing the Magic with the Sol 45

I have been testing something new from my friends at Lensbaby and am madly in love with this little lens! It’s called the Sol 45 and it has renewed the magic that Lensbaby has always brought to my photographs. This is a lightweight sweet spot lens, 45mm, with a fixed f/3.5 aperture and a 14 inch minimum focus distance.  It’s all metal and tilts within the rule of thirds and also locks into a center position. The magic comes with a secondary feature,  it has “bokeh blades”, two little arms that sit out to the side of the lens that can be moved in front to get texture in your bokeh, or left to the side when you don’t want to use them. You can also rotate them so the texture can go in any direction to match or contrast with the lines in your subject. So now I can add a texture to my background right in camera, how cool is that? It is also inexpensive at $199 and very simple to use.

Here is a shot of the inside of the lens with the blades together and also out of the way:

You can change the tilt of the blades easily:

I haven’t taken this lens off my camera since it arrived. I have been feeling a shift in my work recently for more blur and limited depth of field, and the fixed f/3.5 aperture fits that beautifully. Shooting for selective focus makes you slow down, compose carefully, and think about what it is you want to highlight in your subject. Careful focus placement is also essential with this type of work.

Here are some samples of what I have been shooting, straight out of the camera. I have used the Lensbaby Macro Lenses for some images, the +2 is just right for the Sol 45:

This lens is definitely not just for macro and not just for flowers, I had fun shooting many different subjects, even lobster traps!

There is also a version for Micro 4/3rds users, the Sol 22 has a minimum focus distance of 3.5 inches.

A few tips for using the Sol 45:

~A background with lots of lines will show more effect.
~You can push the blades out of the way if you don’t want the effect for a particular subject.
~Remember the minimum focus distance, if you get closer than the Sol can focus you will get frustrated.
~ Try tilting, don’t put all of your subjects in the center.
~Compose and focus carefully, use selective focus to draw your viewer’s eye to what you found to be more interesting in the scene.

Happy Shooting,

Manipulated Image

Most of us are familiar with the saying, “When a tree falls in the woods, and there is no one there to hear it fall, does the tree make a sound?” Well, here is a ‘similar’ question, but first the background story. On this particular morning a few weeks ago, outside Haines, Alaska, I SAW a bear cub, sitting right on this rock, and about 10 meters away, his Mom and two siblings were in the shallows of the river feasting on salmon.

But, let’s be clear, the wide angle shot you see here was initially photographed WITHOUT the bear cub anywhere close by (for reasons that should be obvious) and only later that morning, while shooting from the safety of my car, I was able to take a moderately wide angle shot of a bear cub sitting on a different rock. Upon returning home, and through the ‘magic’ of PS, I was able to drop that bear cub onto the same rock which I had seen him sitting upon earlier that morning.

And now to my question; If I ‘move’ a bear from one rock to another in the name of ‘art’ and I don’t make a sound about doing it, is anyone hurt by this ‘lie’? I have very strong feelings about ‘manipulated’ images, “Just because I can, does not mean I should, but when I do, you’ll be in the know.” Okay, now you know how I feel. How about you?

Nikon D500, Nikkor 18-300mm, at 21mm, F/22@1/30 second, 200 ISO.

You Keep Shooting,

-BPSOP Founder – Bryan F Peterson

Bryan Teaches:

Understanding Exposure & Your DSLR

Understanding Color, Seeing Color & Composing Color

Understanding Close-Up Photography

Mastering Nikon Flash Photography

The Art of Seeing

Understanding Composition

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  • After struggling with Lightroom for years, I signed up for Jon's Apple Photo class looking for an easier alternative. The class did not disappoint. In fact with Jon's help I have converted all my pictures to Apple Photos. In the class I learned a much easier way to do minor edits without the cumbersomeness of Lightroom. And all adjustments are backed up to the cloud so my edited pictures are immediately viewable on all my Apple devices. Jon also introduced me to Luminar 4 which goes way beyond simple editing, but keeps everything within Apple Photos. I can't say enough good things about the class & Jon! Read More
    Jim Bobst Mastering Apple Photos
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