25 Dec 2010

Light: Project - The intensity of light, pt.2

Exercise: Higher and lower sensitivity
7 photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

My notes for Assignment 3 showed that I deliberatly kept the ISO sensitivity low as I had the camera mounted on a tripod and camera shake was not an issue. I was able to use slower shutter speed and therefore did not have to speed up the exposure with a higher ISO. There was one exception and that was the exploding water balloon where I had to up the ISO in order to speed up the shutter to 1/2500 to freeze frame the resulting splash of the water. The problem this produced was the digital noise that can be seen on close examination of the photo.

I did a series of photos to test the acceptable limits of my D5000s ISO sensitivity so avoid the problem of noise. The camera seems to cope well up to ISO 400-800 with very little noise but beyond that it starts to show. The comparison below shows the problem between ISO 200 and 3200:

I recently utalised the higher sensity when taking some photos of a friend's newborn: she's only a month old and wouldn't stay still! ISO 800 and the fastest shutter speed the wide aperture would allow produced good results, but beyond that the noise was just too much. I also used it to good effect on the Paris Metro when a busker came onboard - ISO 1250 allowed me to get the shutter speed to 1/30 for a good exposure and it resulted in this gem of a photo!

Light: Project - The intensity of light, pt.1

Exercise: Measuring exposure

Click here to view flickr set.

Light: Project - Photographic lighting pt.5

Exercise: Shiny surfaces
4 - 10 photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

{content pending}

Light: Project - Photographic lighting pt.4

Exercise: Concentrating light
2 photographs

This exercise doesn't actually call for the reader to produce any results for concentrating light, but I have done so anyway because I thought it was quite interesting. Dont get me wrong, not much thought has been put into them but I wanted to quickly experiment at the end of an evening.

I attached a piece of rolled-up foam sheet to the end of my speedlight using self-adhesive velcro and proceeded to take a few photos around the flat. The first photo, below, shows the light being very heavily focused on the TV in the lounge. As you can see, it is very interesting just how focused the light has become with a long snoot.

Next, I went outside to see what would happen with some other artificial light in the scene. Here, the speedlight with the snoot fitted was angled to point at the car in the background and highlight it along with the street lights to the right of the frame. This shows that a scene can be composed and specific details can be brought into view using concentrated light. Granted, these two photographs aren't the most creative or refined, but they have given me another option to consider when planning for Assignment 4...

19 Dec 2010

Light: Project - Photographic lighting pt.3

Exercise: Contrast and shadow fill
7 photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

The previous two exercises have shown how we can change the contrast of a photograph using hard or soft light and also how we alter the perceived depth of the subject by influencing where the shadows fall with the light direction. Now we look at how to reflect the light from the source in order to fill the shadows to alter the contrast even more.

The first and second photo follows the softening the light exercise by creating hard and soft shadows, respectively. The third shows how piece on white card, placed approximately one metre away, can reflect some of the light back onto the subject to fill in the shadows cast by the direction of the source. This is in effect reducing the tonal variation of the subject, removing the competition between the shadow and the form. For the fourth, the card was moved closer and the result reduces the tonal variation even more by reflecting more of the light. I have exercised this in the past for a colour accent submission for Assignment 3: a large light source was placed to the left of the subject to soften the shadows and a white card placed opposite to reduce the tonal variation caused by the position of the model’s head.

The fifth, sixth and seventh photographs for this exercise alter the amount of light reflected again by using the dull and shiny sides of kitchen foil and then crumbled foil, respectively. By comparing the results, we can see that the shiny surface of the foil reflects more light still when compared to the white card.

The choice of what sort of reflector card to use will be dependant on the amount of fill a subject may require. Furthermore, the colour of the seamless background would also influence the amount of fill required: a brilliant white may mean that no fill would be required at all whereas black may require a much stronger fill.

Light: Project - Photographic lighting pt.2

Exercise: The lighting angle
11 photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

This is an exercise in different lighting positions to create tonal variations in an object in order to provide depth clues. With the camera fixed on the tripod, a total of 11 photographs were taken using a small bust of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.

The previous exercise in softening the light showed us that a small light source will produce hard shadows where as a large source (such as light fitted with a diffuser) will create soft shadows. Various factors can influence the descriptor of a source being large or small, such as the distance from the subject, however for the purposes of this exercise the source will be diffused at all times. The source will be moved around the subject with the direction determining the highlights and shadow falls.

1. Front Lighting

Here the light is coming from the direction of the camera: this shows the least possible depth in the planes of the subject because the visible part is entirely highlighted. The shadows fall behind the subject where the camera cannot see and for this reason this can also be described as flat lighting (this can be usful in portrait photography for minimizing and softening skin texture).

2. Side Lighting

Side lighting maximizes the perception of depth by producing shadows and highlights, unlike the little depth created by flat lighting and the silhouetting of backlighting. Of the series, I am most fond of this particular photograph for the atmosphere it creates, however the position of the shadow is competing with the subject: did you notice the statue or the shadows first?

3. Behind/side

With the light placed behind the subject and slightly off to one side, the resultant photograph is that of a silhouette with a line of light picking out the edges of the offset side. The photograph fails to reveal much of the subject's depth but has produced a dramatic highlight. If the subject were a more recognisable shape, such as the contours of a model's side-profile, this could produce a very dramic piece. This works very well in this this film poster for Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino

4. Backlighting

Here the statue is completly silhouetted by placed the light to the rear of the subject as has completly failed to reveal any of its depth. The creates a certain 'drama' to the subject but without any further lighting or reflection there is no third dimension to the photograph.

Light: Project - Photographic lighting pt.1

Exercise: Softening the light
2 photographs

Due to the weather deciding that it was going to dump over Buckinghamshire and snow me in, I decided to skip ahead in the Light chapter of TAOP and do the photographic lighting exercises rather than sit on it and do nothing. Not sure if I'm meant to do this but being flexible is key when you can't go anywhere!!

I bought Light: Colour and Magic. off of Amazon as an extra resource for photographic lighting and I am really glad I did. It's in the recommended reading list for the course and it really does expand on the notes made in TAOP folder.

High Contrast/Hard Light

This first image shows an example of a high-contrast light source which is easily recognisable by the appearance of hard shadows; that is all of the rays are striking the object from nearly the same angle. With this Buddha head, a naked bulb is shining down from the top left of the frame to create shadows with sharply defined edges, cast from its features. For this reason, high contrast light sources are also said to be hard lights.

The diagram below shows an example of a hard shadow being created from high-contrast light source; the sun. The sun is considered to be a small light source owing to its relative distance from the Earth and, (when referring to single light sources), all small light sources are considered to be high-contrast sources.

Low Contrast/Soft Light

For the second photograph, the light source and the head have not been moved but a diffuser made from tracing paper has been positioned between the two. Its presence has produced a scattering of the light from the bulb and created a large light source, one of low-contrast. Now the shadows are far less defined and move of the Buddha’s face is illuminated from this scattering.

If we again consider the diagram of the sun the same effect is produced when a cloud passes between the rays and the casting object: the rays are scattered and the shadow is no longer clearly defined. Conversely, large light sources are considered to be that of low-contrast

The words hard and soft are used only to describe how sharply the edges of a shadow are defined; they are not descriptors of lightness or darkness.

12 Dec 2010

Looking at Artists...

I’ve started to look at a few artist’s work to try and get some early ideas for Assignment 4 on Light. I remembered an artist I looked at a number of years ago for a different project and remembered a ‘film noir’ series of photographs by Cindy Sherman. This was her landmark 69 photograph series called the Complete Untitled Film Stills, (1977–1980), where Sherman photographed herself in a range of costumes portraying B-movie, foreign film and film noir style actresses.

Sherman is an American photographer and film director, best known for her conceptual portraits and has raised challenging and important questions about the role and representation of women in society. Although Sherman does not consider her work feminist, many of her photo-series, like the 1981 "Centerfolds," call attention to the stereotyping of women in films, television and magazines.

In this Untitled photograph we can see the model under lighting conditions that have created a lot of heavy shadows and contrast. The strong lines across the models face and upper body seem to suggest that she is hiding under the towel in a dark room and the light is spilling in from a window to left, outside of the frame.

In the mid 1980s, Sherman produced the horrific and often repulsive elements of fairy tale stories. She combines prosthetic and artificial body parts along with elaborate make-up to completely transform herself into embodiments of horror and nightmare. Again, there is high contrast lighting used in the series to accentuate features and create mood, however this style of wonder and macabre is (in my view) better delivered by Joshua Hoffine.

11 Dec 2010

Moving onto Chapter 4: Light

I’ve started reading on with TAOP while on night shift and I have to admit that I’m a little confused to the importance of metering. I understand the theory but not the relevance. Reading the course materials it says that metering is the cameras way of getting the correct exposure, though it can sometimes be fooled. I know how to change the exposure using the shutter speed, aperture and/or ISO and my DSLR allows me to review the result instantly so I can make changes on-the-spot.

So… if I am able to completely control the exposure what do I need metering for?!

I decided to try researching this on the web and came across this tutorial:

A good example they give is of a portrait shot with the model underexposed while sitting in front of a brightly lit window. The tutorials solution was to use spot metering to take a reading from the models face; this exposed her correctly and burned out the background details. Why was spot metering needed for this? Surely a longer exposure time, wider aperture or higher ISO would have done the same thing? What am I missing?!

I emailed my tutor with this and he helped clear the situation up for me. The missing tooth in the cog was speed. Metering allows you to quickly set the optimum exposure so you can just keep on clicking. Here’s an example from my tutor:

“A classic example is the wedding, white dress, black suit. zoom in on the black suit, look at the reading, zoom in on the white dress look at the reading then set accordingly. All done in a second or two with no looking away from the camera or looking at dials.”

So, question answered. Now I can move on with my life and stop obsessing!

9 Dec 2010

Feedback on Assignment 3

My tutor sent me his feedback on Assignment 3 last week and all I can say is:


Joe gave me some massively positive notes on the series and I'm really glad that I took the time producing them, given the results. Joe liked them so much that he passed them onto Gareth Dent at the OCA and I'm now a featured artist!!! I've been on cloud-9!!!

Click here to see my work at the main OCA website and here for the OCA blog to read the accompanying article!

On a further note, it is interesting that the colour settings on my monitor were brought up in the feedback because I have been pondering about this recently. I received an email from the OCA about Peak Imaging as a photo developer and the importance of monitor calibration with colour cards. I also noticed that the colours of my submission for Assignment 3 were a little different on my friend’s monitor when I was showing him my work. Joe noticed some purple areas on the photograph '09 - Complimentary harmony' and I too saw this on my friend’s screen. The excess purple areas are of the light reflecting off the white material in the background because the sheet I used had a slight sheen to it. On my screen they are not visible and I thought my settings were quite good. Looks like I’ll have to get some colours cards and do some tinkering!!