Light fantastic

lightIt would be fair to say that i’m a big fan of light.

Perhaps that’s a singularly weird thing to say, but it’s one of those things that i can wax lyrical about, in much the same way that others might extol the virtues of football, Ferraris or fine dining.

Ask me the question and i can even tell you my favourite kind of light: there’s the strangely luminescent light that precedes a thunderstorm, picking out the details of our surroundings with a clarity that they somehow lack at other times. Then there’s the warm, mellow golden light of a late summer afternoon, with a hazy, comforting quality that somehow makes you feel good. The interplay of dappled shadows through forest leaves, the ink-blue radiance of an autumn evening sky, and the muffled haze of sunlight through morning river mist… each has their own special feeling and quality.

perduta11_001You may have noticed that all of the examples above are natural light, there are few artificial candidates that fit the bill for me, indeed a great many of those fall at quite the opposite end of the spectrum, (excuse the pun), and are easily my least favourite methods of illumination. Give me a simple candle over the characterless blue of a flurorescent tube, the naff orange of sodium and the cruel, harsh glare of halogen and mercury vapour, any day. As for LEDs… i genuinely abhor the contemptuous manner in which they snap on and off – no grace or panache! On the other hand, i can’t abide those awful energy-saving ‘luminaires’, (when did we stop calling them ‘bulbs’?) – they may save the planet and last forever, but they take flipping forever to give any light at all; when they do, it’s horrible, wishy-washy yuckiness; and they’re uglier than a baboon’s backside.

Even natural light has it’s disagreeable moments though – far from being the photographer’s friend, it’s often their bane. Natural light is too capricious and unreliable: the only thing you can guarantee after a long day’s shoot in less than ideal conditions is that the moment you pack all the gear away and get into the car, that’s the moment the light will decide to become absolutely perfect! As for weddings, whilst the bride and groom are praying for sunshine, the photographer has their fingers crossed for dull and overcast… there are few things as annoying as a blushing, but noticeably squinting bride.

arbres_001There’s not a lot you can do about natural light – the odd, well-placed reflector might help, but we’re pretty much at the whims of nature, unlike sl, where we can have ultimate control over every aspect of our scene, from moodlighting to downright weird and wonderful. i’m a huge fan of Windlight, although i’ll often waste long periods of precious time, cycling through every single option to find exactly what i want, and still being unhappy with the result!

Simple though it may seem, there’s a real skill to finding the perfect light settings to complement your environment when inworld. Some sim creators demonstrate sheer genius when it comes to setting the mood: light, colours, shadows and scenery all combine to paint a perfect pixel picture; something that works extraordinarily well, creating an emotional reaction, as well as a pretty view. The first time i ever paid a visit to The Wastelands, it was the Windlight that caught my attention just as much as the setting – spot on.

ww119_001That’s not to say that Windlight can’t be employed badly too – one of my favourite stores, which shall remain nameless, uses a garish whiteout that effectively bleaches their product displays to the point where you can’t actually see them. Whatever the reason, it’s completely counterproductive as far as i’m concerned – the first thing i do on arrival is switch to a different, more eye-friendly scheme.  Then there’s the spooky sims, bathed in the full glare of the midday sun… i could go on, but you get the idea. Like so many things, a little knowledge and/or power can be a pretty awful thing in unskilled hands – best not to tweak, if the end result is worse that what you started with.

In the main, though, avatar spake, and said “Let there be light”, and there was, and lo, it was good!

s. x

Light and day is more than you’ll say
Because all my feelings are more
Than i can let by, or not
More than you’ve got
Just follow the day
Follow the day and reach for the sun!
The Polyphonic Spree – Light And Day

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