Shooting Challenge: Ray of Light

No matter how many times I see it in whatever the context, a ray of light shining through a scene is a striking motif. For this week's Shooting Challenge, I want you to deploy proper technique to capture the effect.

The Challenge

Take a photo that includes a ray (or rays) of light in a position of prominence. Note: it can be scattered, as in nature, or finely chiseled as, as through windows. In fact, you're free to use natural or artificial light. Feel free to stage a photo if you have the resources—but no creating rays of light in Photoshop! Oh, and no lens flare, either.


The Method

No matter whether you are shooting in the day or night, natural or artificial light, you'll want said light to pass through a medium—fog or dust—to exacerbate the effect, and it will help if your backdrop is dark enough to contrast with what's essentially your subject: The light.


Cambridge in Color has a must-read tutorial on photographing light in fog, mist and haze. Both scientific and practical, you'll learn that haze tricks your camera into underexposing (so compensate), and that the closer you can be to the ray of light, the more likely you'll capture it.

Cryosphere recommends closing down your aperture (using a high f-stop) coupled with a slow shutter speed and a tripod. And an article on eHow concurs.


The Rules - READ THESE

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos need to be taken the week of the contest.
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 800px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. (The 800px image is the one judged, so feel free to crop/alter the larger image for wallpaper-sized dimensions.)
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)


Send your best photo by Monday, September 13th at 8AM Eastern to with "Ray" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameRay.jpg (800px wide) and FirstnameLastnameRayWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

[Lead photo by David Gallard.]

If you're in need of even more stuff to photograph, my site Life, Panoramic would love to publish your portrait of your hometown. If your photography sucks, don't sweat it. Put all the photos in black and white and 90% of the public will assume you're an artist.


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