Shooting the Light

Emerald Bay | Neely Wang

Over the summer, I took a trip with some good friends to Lake Tahoe, California. I still haven’t been there in the winter, which I hear is gorgeous, but truthfully I’m not much of a snow person, so summer in Tahoe is plenty good for now. I took about 500 photos on this trip and have yet to go through all of them, but this image was by far my favorite.

Traveling has changed immensely for me (and my family) since I became a photographer. I’m always the one lingering behind taking photos or walking around things countless times from different angles or pointing out the window gasping, “Look at that beautiful light!” My sweet husband has gotten used to it, and humors me with a gentle nod and a brief, “Uh-huh.” Apparently, he takes my word for it since he no longer bothers to look.

On this particular trip, I had seen pictures of Emerald Bay online and told my friends that I really wanted to take a picture there at some point during our trip. But, of course, I really did not want to wake up at 5 in the morning to do it. I’m glad my more adventurous friend convinced us to go because more and more, I’m beginning to realize how much lighting can truly make or break an image. Recently, I heard or read somewhere that photography is about taking images of the light more than anything else. I don’t think I truly understood that when I first became interested in photography, but the more I shoot, the more I realize how true this statement is, and it has completely changed the way I look at photography. Yes, being a mom with two young kids does not make it easy to catch light at its best, but trying to understand light and how it reflects, reveals, envelops, changes or even ruins a subject depending on its quality is something I’m always striving to focus on before I even put the camera up to my face.

Hopefully, I’ll get around to sharing the rest of my Tahoe images someday soon. I’d love to hear your thoughts about “shooting the light” and what you think that means for you and your photography.


    • Thanks, Aunt Nanc! Ooh, Orcas Island looks like this? We’ll have to visit sometime — I bet I’d love it! Yes, my camera has a viewfinder. Why do you ask?

      • Uncle Robert wants a new camera – but he wants a viewfinder. I was thinking of the Lumix, but it doesn’t have a viewfinder. And yes, Orcas is actually way more beautiful than Tahoe and you would go crazy taking pics. There are islands and mountains and bodies of water everywhere. Come visit!

        • I have a Canon and love it! I used to have a Lumix point-and-shoot that I kept in my bag at all times, but it ended up dying on me. Now I just rely on my iphone, and it takes great photos overall in a pinch. I can only imagine how beautiful Orcas is!

    • Thank you so much, Randall – I truly appreciate it! I’m glad I was able to convey a sense of peacefulness and serenity with this image. It was wonderfully quiet and still while we were there.

  1. I can just feel the cool breeze coming off the lake. What a beautiful twilight shot. I love all the observations you pointed out. Yes, light is the real difference maker (x-factor) between an ‘ok’ shot and one that makes you pick your jaw up off the ground. Sounds like you have a great hubby. My wife gives me the same response when I tell her I need to grab a few frames because the light is just too good to pass up. :)

    • Thank you so much, Moose! Love how you describe that “pick your jaw up off the ground” light — I know exactly what you mean! You just can’t help but stop and take a picture. I think spouses have a lot to deal with when married to a photographer :). Thanks for sharing your thoughts — I really appreciate it!

  2. Really beautiful, perfect shot…I think you need to submit this to the county fair next year. :) The colors and the composition are gorgeous. The sun starburst is the icing on the cake.

    • Thank you, Craftinggirl! And thank you for pushing us out the door when I’d much rather stay in bed :). I do wish I could have pulled back a little further and captured a bit more of the scene — argh – that crop sensor again! Ready to upgrade ;).

  3. Thank you again, Neely, for making us to be there with you somehow. The image is wonderful and talks about your sensitivity. I think I am always aware of light, even at home: I follow it around the year as it visits this or that part of the living-room. I appreciate its quality, its times… I just feel it as a blessing and try to capture it in everything it touches and envelopes.

    • Thank you for sharing, Yvette! So beautifully said — love how you say you follow it around the year as it visits! You have such an appreciate and gentle view towards it. It’s often easy for me to forget the beauty and power of light as well as the feeling it conveys. Thanks again!

  4. Yeah, I’m still learning how to shoot into the sun and get that star burst. Btw after reading ur post I think we have something in common. My husbands is my tripod man :)

  5. This is stunning, Neely. My husband and I had our first (summer) wedding at Lake Tahoe, followed up by a Doctor Zhivago-esque ceremony in Germany, during the winter months. The image reminds me of our riverboat cruise, which took us to lovely Emerald Bay. So, was this a sunrise or a sunset shot?

    • Thank you, Tricia! Wow — you’ve been everywhere! I’m so jealous :). This was taken in the wee hours of the morning, which is why it was so quiet and peaceful and calm. I think the water would have been rougher from boats enjoying the sunset.

  6. “trying to understand light and how it reflects, reveals, envelops, changes or even ruins a subject depending on its quality” Quotable! :)

    Great pic Neely! The symmetrical sun flare is beautiful!

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