Rick Sands: Breaking the Light Barrier

I always call him “the genius of light.” He puts all of the lighting scenes together. He thinks differently than everyone else I know. He just responds to light. It’s remarkable.
—Gregory Crewdson on Rick Sands

Over the course of a week in June 2013, Rick Sands led Breaking the Light Barrier, a technical lighting workshop for photographers. An experienced lighting director, Sands revealed techniques specific to cinema production, often overlooked when making still images. The class was a hands-on crash course in a diverse array of equipment. Students worked in teams to design and implement complex lighting arrangements.



Join master illuminator Rick Sands for “Breaking the Light Barrier,” a workshop for photographers who would like to improve their understanding of lighting—from conceptualization through execution. For nearly fifteen years, Sands has created elaborate lighting for the narrative photographs of artist Gregory Crewdson. The class will cover varied philosophies of lighting technique, working under a wide range of conditions (day as well as night, interior as well as exterior) and studying separation through use of contrast via intensity and color. The class will also cover practical aspects like scheduling and budgetary concerns. Participants will then form teams to produce projects employing the techniques covered under the curriculum. The main objective of the class is to create and extend a lighting vernacular that allows you to design and execute diverse projects. Participants will gain a comfort and confidence level enabling them to work adeptly throughout the lighting design process.

Over the course of six days, “Breaking the Light Barrier” will cover contextual light, interior lighting, exterior lighting, and project flow as separate units of study. Each unit will be comprised of conceptual overview, study of examples, equipment demonstration, training exercises, and experimentation. Students will be asked to complete four assignments, the last being a comprehensive production exercisetaking place over three days. Additional concepts reviewed will include the motivation of light, the study of ambient light, light plots, the importance of time-of-day, and the set environment and its effect on lighting.

Rick Sands is a film technician whose roots are in cinema production. His portfolio includes thirty-five theatrically released motion pictures with directors such as Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, forty-seven television movies, and countless one-hour television episodes. His work in advertising has won him several ADDY awards. Through his unique collaboration with Gregory Crewdson, Sands’s lighting has been featured in six books and several international exhibitions.

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