Seeing the Light: Treasures Around the House
May 25th, 2017 by David LaBelle

Gus sits in a shaft of morning light, providing a beautiful, natural portrait of a time, pet and place.
Photos by David LaBelle

Many people love traveling and foolishly believe anywhere other than where they currently are will produce better pictures than those from home. We become so enamored with far-away places we can miss the beauty right under our noses.

We have heard someone say after viewing breathtaking travel pictures, “If I could travel halfway across the world, I could take stunning pictures, too.”

Unfortunately, it is not so easy.

Wherever you are, you still have to take yourself, your eyes, your vision, your curiosity (or lack thereof) and your attitude.

Good, watchful, sensitive photographers make great pictures everywhere, not just in exotic places.

While it is easier to interest ourselves and others with pictures of famous or glamorous places, great storytelling images can be found anywhere there is light—even in our homes.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been sitting and watched either early morning or late afternoon light crawl across a room or window sill, temporarily revealing a piece of a world I otherwise would have missed.

With every moving, magical inch of light, a new, beautiful, often surprising composition is revealed. It’s all new!

Because the angle—even the intensity—of the sun’s light changes during the time of day and season, we never see exactly the same picture. In other words, there is something new under the sun—the scenes offered that change by the minutes, hours, days and seasons.

If you have time on your hands, choose one interesting scene—a composition in your house or yard that receives different amounts or strengths and direction of light at different times of day. Watch how the light changes, and make a series of pictures documenting this incredible taken-for-granted light and life of a day.

A cross perched in the corner of a window sill, a shadow moving slowly across a room, open shutters—these common scenes become temporarily alive with a passing kiss of sunlight.

Another challenge is to see the picture and record it without moving any piece of it. You move, change angles or lenses if need be, but do not touch the components of the compositional scene—not even to move a curtain. Nothing!

This is an invaluable exercise in seeing and composing the natural, the given, the untouched visual gift with your camera.

Too often we get so busy doing—like eating without chewing—that we forget to see and appreciate light, which is the source of our livelihood, our adoration, our avocation and our very existence.

We don’t need to spend dollars (or euros) to travel to far-away places to make interesting and meaningful pictures. We just have to slow down and discover the world we are blessed with and bathed in.

Photography is not about gear or travel. It is about appreciating, seeing and challenging oneself to make a picture that somehow captures and communicates to others what you saw and felt.

Challenge yourself to see your home before you try to see the world.

David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer who grew up in rural California. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the U.S. and taught at three universities. For more information, visit