Review - Seeing the Light by Mitchell Kanashkevich -  featured - 01

Review: ‘Seeing the Light’ by Mitchell Kanashkevich

Mitchell-Kanashkevich-Seeing-the-LightMitchell Kanashkevich is a curious world wanderer, a travel/documentary photographer, a workshop leader and author. His main passion lies in capturing disappearing ancient cultures and the human condition in unique, challenging situations. Whether photographing nomadic shepherds in India, life in the last traditional villages of Eastern Europe or sulphur miners working in a volcanic crater, his common aim is always the same: to capture the human element.

The Topic

When you start your photography adventures and you buy your first decent camera, the first thing you’re usually learning is how to photograph with natural light. That’s the easiest way of photographing because you do not need to worry about setting up and using additional lighting equipment.

But at some point, you discover that being limited to natural light is really only half the fun. In many situations, you simply do not get the shot because it’s too dark. That’s when you start using speedlights and light modifiers.

But how do you actually use them in a way such that your photographs still have a natural feel to them? How and where do you set up your flash in order not to ruin the natural atmosphere in your scene? How do you use different light modifiers (e.g. reflectors) to modify and sculpt the light on your subjects exactly the way you envision it?

These are the nagging questions that every photographer has when they start using artificial light.

The eBook

Mitchell Kanashkevich’s eBook Seeing the Light will help you answer the questions above. The subtitle of the book is “Making the most of available light and minimal equipment“, and that’s what you get: A practical guide that does not assume expensive hi-tech studio equipment. Mitchell’s way of working on his projects requires him to travel light and to use gear that can be set up quick and effectively.

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Mitchell uses countless examples with clear lighting diagrams that show you exactly how he lit the different scenes. You will learn a whole set of techniques that you can include in your own repertory and that help you master most common lighting situations.

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In this book, Mitchell concentrates mainly on how to combine flash and light modifiers with natural light. His goal is to show you how to preserve the beautiful light that’s inherent to the scene and improve it by using artificial light sparingly and subtly. The results are amazing photographs that do not scream “Cheese!“. In most of the photos, you wouldn’t even guess that a flash was involved.

seeing-the-light3Mitchell refers to his way of using artificial light in combination with natural light as sculpting with light. And that metaphor is a very fitting one. His main mission is not to light the scene but to let the scene come to life.

Chapter Overview

This 54-page eBook has three main chapters:

  • Chapter one is called The Flash. Here, Mitchell explains which equipment he is using and how to use a flash to light the scene in different situations (outdoors, indoors, with a light bulb, with fire).
  • Chapter two is about using a reflector. It explains how to use a reflector in general, how to sculpt and model light with a reflector, how to add drama and how to use a reflector as a fill light.
  • Chapter three is about natural light. In this chapter, Mitchell discusses how to use natural light most effectively, how to use window light indoors to light your subject, and how to use the light during the magic hour outdoors. Finally, He teaches you how to use backlight most effectively to tell your story.

Other Things You’ll Learn

This is one of those books where the example photos tell a story of their own. Mitchell uses them to explain the concepts of lighting, but you will end up immersing yourself in those beautiful pictures and in the stories behind them. That’s really the recurring theme of this book: How do you use your camera and your light most effectively to tell the story of your subject. You also get a feeling for what it means to be a travel and documentary photographer like Mitchell and what it would be like to get to know all these different people from very different cultures and backgrounds. At least that’s what it was like for me.

The Style of Teaching

Mitchell describes himself as being in love with light. This passion and his experience translates into authority pretty quickly. And even though he seems to be influenced by the renaissance painters of 16th and 17th centuries, his style of writing is not poetic or philosophic at all. He comes straight to the point and brings the lessons across effectively and efficiently. Therefore, the book actually contains much more information than one would assume for a 54-page book.

The Summary

The Pros The Cons
  • Mitchell gives you a very practical introduction on using combinations of natural and artificial light to tell your story.
  • Many beautiful sample images make it very easy to learn from this book. You will find yourself wanting the recreate these images and that’s a strong incentive to learn.
  • Very clear lighting diagrams show you exactly how the respective images were created.
  • In order to reproduce the type of images you see in this book, you only need very minimal equipment. This makes it easy to get started.
  • I would have found it interesting to hear more about the setup of the lighting, not in terms of the technical details, but with respect to the intrusiveness: How do you actually manage to set up your equipment (of-camera flash etc.) to photograph a religious ceremony, for example? That would have broadened the topic a bit, of course.
  • Similarly, a bit more information about the actual situations and the background of the different photos and people would have been a nice addition to the book. It would help the reader connect even more to the topic at hand through the stories.

My Personal Tips for this Tutorial

Here are my personal tips on how to work with this book:

  • Reading this book in the comfort of your home with your camera in hand is probably not the best way to take in the information Mitchell has to offer. Seek for lighting situations that are similar to those in the book and see if you can recreate the results. So, maybe you want to organize a nice bonfire or a candle light dinner… if that’s not too romantic! 😉

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