Exercise 4.4

Brief :

Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form.

For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body,
rather than a man-made object.

Man-made or cultural artefacts can be fascinating to light but they also contain another layer of meaning requiring interpretation by the photographer; this exercise is just about controlling the light to reveal form.
You don’t need a studio light for this exercise; a desk lamp or even window light will be fine, although a camera flash that you can use remotely is a useful tool.

The only proviso is that you can control the way the light falls on the subject.
Take some time to set up the shot.

The background for your subject will be crucial.
For a smallish object, you can tape a large sheet of paper or card to the wall as an ‘infinity curve’ which you can mask off from the main light source by pieces of card.
You don’t need to use a curve if you can manage the ‘horizon line’ effectively – the line where the surface meets background.

Taking a high viewpoint will make the surface the background, in which case the surface you choose will be important to the shot.
Exposure times will be much longer than you’re used to (unless you’re using flash) and metering and focusing will be challenging.

The key to success is to keep it simple.

The important thing is to aim for four or five unique shots – either change
the viewpoint, the subject or the lighting for each shot.
Add the sequence to your learning log.

Draw a simple lighting diagram for each of your shots showing the position of the camera, the subject and the direction of the key light and fill.

Don’t labour the diagrams; quick sketches with notes will be just
as useful as perfect graphics.

In your notes try to describe any similarities between the qualities of controlled lighting and the daylight and ambient artificial light shots
from Exercises 4.2 and 4.3.


Process :

For this exercise I attached a large roll of blue art paper to my wardrobe and draped it over my coffee table, this gave me a decent back drop.

Next I set up my camera on my tripod varying the distance to subject and I used different lenses.

I set up my SB 5000 flash on an old tripod and an old cheap TTL flash on camera, I used the SB 5000 in radio AWL mode and TTL.

By varying the distance and direction of the flash, using flash modifiers and also using various different lenses I came up with the following shots.


Photographs :

Diagram notes: rather than do separate  drawings for each shot please refer to each of the settings listed under each photograph and refer to the master drawing above.

The angle of the flashes are measured from the subject and assume that 0 degrees is the direction the lens is pointing at.

800 mm.  f 64 @ 1/200th second .

Distance to background 1 m, Subject distance 2 m.

Hand held off camera flash only with head zoomed to 200 mm. and a height of 1.5 m. 225 degrees off set.

150 mm. f 8 @ 1/200th second.

Distance to background 1 m, subject distance 0.38 m .

Hand held off camera flash only with head zoomed to 14 mm. and a height of 1 meter using the wide-angle panel and diffuser  dome.

150 mm. f 8 @ 200th second.

Distance to background 1.5 m, subject distance 0.38 m.

Hand held off camera flash with head zoomed to 200 mm. and a height of 0.5 m, 150 degrees off set.

150 mm. f 8 @ 200th second.

hand-held off camera flash with head zoomed to 24 mm. using the wide-angle panel at a height of 1.5 meters and a 270 degree off set.

400 mm. f 25 @ 200th second.

Distance to background 10 cm, distance to subject 2 meters.

On camera flash was fired over my shoulder at the ceiling using its wide panel.

The off camera flash was at a height of 1.5 meters at an angle off of 225 degrees using its wide panel.


Contact sheets.

Research :

The first thing I had to research was how to get my flash to talk to my camera, using the manual and the excellent Nikon videos I managed it.

The next order of business was to look at what others had done in the way of still life pictures, I concentrated mainly on the painting masters such as Monet in order to see what I preferred.

Then I watched plenty of YouTube videos on flash photography in order to get a sense of the mechanics of it.

Analysis :

Although I used a constant picture angle, changing the direction, height and angle of the flash guns gave very different effects.

The more shadows and the darker the background gave a mood as well as a sense of three-dimensional form.

The softer and more direct the light and the mood lightens but your left with a more two-dimensional shape, brighter but flatter colours that are rather unsatisfying.

Getting the two to balance takes patience and skill.

The main differences I noticed in the qualities of light between these exercises was that flash photography is like the Ambient artificial exercise but without the colour/white balance problems and obviously I can control the amount and direction of it.

Reflections :

This was a very interesting exercise that challenged me to think of every aspect of the finished product.

Getting a decent background took several days visiting art shops before I found the right size and colour of paper I needed.

Finding a subject was easier but the local super market thought I was strange holding fruit up to the light.

The flash guns can’t talk to each other, If I had two of the marvelous Nikon SB 5000’s I could have set ratios of light between the two.

As it was the Simple and cheap TTL flash would only work mounted on the camera and couldn’t be set as a master flash.

This  posed some exposure problems until I found that both set to TTL worked well.

Overall I enjoyed this exercise.


Exercise 4.3


Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term).

The correct white balance setting will be important; this
can get tricky –but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour temperatures in the same shot.

You can shoot indoors or outside but the light should be ambient rather than camera flash.

Add the sequence to your learning log.

In your notes try to describe the difference in the quality of light from the daylight shots in Exercise 4.2.


For this series I went to different locations where a variety of light sources and colours were apparent.

For the most part the shots where hand-held except on mount Coot-Tha for the shots of Brisbane and the woman photographer.

I used a variety of lenses from the 24-70 mm. f 2.8 Tamron SP, 70-200 mm. Tamron SP and a Sigma 150 mm. f 2.8 macro.

After many years smoking, drinking too much coffee and getting older I have to drive up the shutter speeds to keep the photo’s acceptable, this requires some higher than I’d like ISO numbers; hence the choice of Nikon D5 as my camera as it handles low light very well.


The Sporting Page, Chelsea.

The Worlds End Pub, Chelsea.

London bus.

Cat in a carpet shop.

Photographer, Mt. Coot-Tha, Queensland; Australia.

Brisbane, Mt. Coot-Tha.

Two cats indoors.

Display, Brisbane museum.

Woman using her phone, Koala centre theatre near Brisbane.

Girl waiting for a bus, Fulham.

Contact sheet 1.

Contact sheet 2.




Artificial light can be tricky to get right but is very rewarding when it is.

The different colours and the varying harshness is different from daylight because it is constant once the sun has gone down.

The different light sources also have varying colour temperatures which makes white balance tricky at best.

If there are a mixture of lighting types within a frame white balance can become impossible, the photo of the Worlds end pub is one such case.

It has incandescent, tungsten, HID car lights and coloured lights all in one shot; very tricky but quite pretty.

Bailey’s chip shop was another challenge, varying light sources and different skin tones added to the equation.


I love the city at night, the colours, the reflections and the people and places all take on a different persona once the sun goes down.

Although the white balance can be tricky in post processing, your camera will be fooled; there’s always the lack of places open for coffee when it is cold.


Exercise 4.2


In manual mode take a sequence of shots of a subject of your choosing at different times on a single day.

It doesn’t matter if the day is overcast or clear but you need a good spread of times from early morning to dusk.

You might decide to fix your viewpoint or you might prefer to ‘work into’ your subject, but the important thing is to observe the light, not just photograph it.

Add the sequence to your learning log together with a time stamp from the time/date info in the metadata.

In your own words, briefly describe the quality of light in each image.



I set my camera to manual mode and kept the aperture set to f 5 throughout the entire series.

I also tried to take a shot once an hour during the day, from early morning to the evening.




contact sheet


I looked in the manual for my camera on how to set up time-lapse photography, which I didn’t use due to the weather.



Despite the rainy day I think you can see that the light from hour to hour does change in quality.

The effect is subtle and gradual throughout the day but if you look at the differences between early morning/late evening and midday, you can see how harsh the light becomes.

The shadows are more pronounced and the colours are flatter.

The so-called golden hour produces colours that are more vibrant despite the shadows being elongated and more obvious.

I can see why late evening or early morning is the preferred time for most photographers.


This series was taken during a miserable couple of weeks in Australia.

This was the first day that there wasn’t a severe lightning storm but it was threatening to do so.

As it was raining and the only cover I had was keeping me dry ,I had to forgo using a tripod and leaving the camera set up.

Unfortunately I had set the auto ISO function with the intention of leaving aperture and shutter speed a constant, I forgot to turn it off when the weather turned out so miserable hence the varied shutter speed and ISO settings.

There is also a slight variation in framing due to hand holding for the shots and then returning to the house to get dry.

I learned a lot about staying focused on the task at hand despite threats from the weather and poisonous critters of various kinds.

I also found that setting your equipment the night before isn’t a good idea as the conditions you’ll shoot in will have changed and some settings will be forgotten.

You may ask why I didn’t choose an indoor subject, the lady of the house asked me not to as it’s still an ongoing building project and messy.

Exercise 4.1


1. Set your camera to any of the auto or semi-auto modes.

Photograph a dark tone (such as a black jacket), a mid-tone (the inside of a cereal packet traditionally makes a useful ‘grey card’) and a light tone (such as a sheet of white paper), making sure that the tone fills the viewfinder frame (it’s not necessary to focus).
Add the shots to your learning log with quick sketches of the histograms and your observations.
You might be surprised to see that the histograms for each of the frames – black, grey and white – are the same.

If there’s not much tonal variation within the frame you’ll see a narrow spike at the mid-tone; if there is tonal variation (such as detail) you’ll see a
more gentle curve. If you find the tone curve isn’t centered on the mid-tone, make sure that you have your exposure compensation set to zero.

You may see an unpleasant colour cast if you’re shooting under artificial light, in which case you can repeat the exercise using your monochrome setting (a light meter is sensitive to brightness, not to colour).
This simple exercise exposes the obvious flaw in calibrating the camera’s light meter to the mid-tone. The meter can’t know that a night scene is dark or a snow scene is light so it averages each exposure around the mid-tone and hopes for the best. But why can’t the camera just measure the light as it is?

The reason is that a camera measures reflected light – the light reflected from the subject, not incident light – the light falling on the subject. To measure the incident light
you’d have to walk over to the subject and hold an incident light meter (a handheld meter) pointing back towards the camera, which isn’t always practical.

If you did that each of the tones would be exposed correctly because the auto or semi-auto modes wouldn’t try to compensate for the specific brightness of the subject.

2. Set your camera to manual mode. Now you can see your light meter!

The mid-tone exposure is indicated by the ‘0’ on the meter scale with darker or lighter exposures as – or + on either side.

Repeat the exercise in manual mode, this time adjusting either your aperture or shutter to place the dark, mid and light tones at their correct positions on the histogram.

The light and dark tones shouldn’t fall off either the left or right side of the graph.

Add the shots to your learning log with sketches of their histograms and your observations.
Switching to manual mode disconnects the aperture, shutter and ISO so they’re no longer linked.

Because they’re no longer reciprocal, you can make adjustments to
any one of them without affecting the others.


For the first series of photographs I put my camera into Programme mode, then I shot the back of a black office chair, the side of a grey printer and lastly a white piece of paper.

For the second series I used the same subject matter but this time I put the camera into Manual mode.

I was careful to adjust my exposure compensation to give the correct image.


P mode Black

P mode Grey

P mode White

P mode shots Histogram

Manual Black

Manual mode histogram, Black

Manual mode Grey

Manual mode histogram, Grey

Manual mode White

Manual mode histogram, White




In Program mode all the shots look pretty much the same except the white shot, it kept coming out ever so slightly lighter than the others but not by much.

I only bothered showing one histogram for this series as they where identical for all intents and purpose.

The second series got them looking correct both visually and in the histograms.


This exercise demonstrated visually what I knew to be happening but for some reason I kept forgetting to allow for in my photography.

Fortunately such extremes rarely manifest themselves in the real world but occasionally they crop up.

As a side note I must mention that I now find myself using manual mode more than the others as it’s easier to adjust exposure compensation on the fly and you don’t inadvertently forget to reset the exposure compensation setting back to neutral.

I also find it more useful than shutter priority mode as I now have more keepers.


Assignment 3.


1. Prints
Submit a set of between six and eight high-quality photographic prints on the theme of the ‘decisive moment’.

Street photography is the traditional subject of the decisive moment, but it doesn’t have to be.

Landscape may also have a decisive moment of weather, season or time of day.

A building may have a decisive moment when human activity and light combine to present a ‘peak’ visual moment.
You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’, or you may choose to question or invert the concept. Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a
location, an event or a particular period of time.

2. Assignment notes
Submit assignment notes of between 500 and 1,000 words with your series.

Introduce your subject and describe your ‘process’ – your way of working. Then briefly state how you think each image relates to the concept of the decisive moment.

This will be a personal response as there are no right or wrong answers in a visual arts course.

You’ll find it useful to explore the photographers and works referenced in Project 3, if you haven’t already done so.

Don’t forget to use Harvard referencing.
Post your prints, no larger than A4, to your tutor together with your assignment notes.
Check your work against the assessment criteria for this course before you send it to your tutor.

Make some notes in your learning log about how well you believe your work meets each criterion.
Your tutor may take a while to get back to you so carry on with the course while you’re waiting.


For this assignment I stayed in and around various parks in London observing the various bonds made between both humans and animals.

The making of friends, the forming of relationships is perhaps the most decisive moment of our lives.
Nothing has as profound an impact on us as social creatures as a friend or partner, be they human or pet.



Making a plan.

Shoulder to shoulder.

Ice cream.

Chin rubs.

Chat in the park.

Recording success.

New friends.

Humour, you either get it or you don’t.

A helping hand.

A good joke.


Contact sheet.



The research for this assignment  has already been covered in exercises 3+.


This assignment took me longer to form my thoughts than I would have imagined, see my reflection notes below for how I did this and why I chose the images I did.



I thought long and hard over this assignment and it took a lot longer to complete than I first thought it would, due partly to a financial crisis that struck which required me to sell all of my photographic equipment.

Fortunately I came into some money and bought new stuff which took some time to get used to.

At first I was thinking the decisive moment was recording a climactic moment, such as a goal in a football match; but soon thought deeper on the subject.

Let’s take a quote from Swarkowski.

“The decisive moment is not a dramatic climax but a visual one: the
result is not a story but a picture”.
(Swarkowski, 2007, p.5)…….

He is wrong! it can be both and more, such as human relationships and interactions.

Another quote from the OCA text-book.

“You know it’s funny. You come to someplace new, and everything
looks just the same”.
(Eddie in Stranger Than Paradise, Dir. Jim Jarmusch, 1984)…..

I think this is also wrong, characters are often similar but the scenery is never the same.

It came to me one afternoon that the making of friends, the forming of relationships is perhaps the most decisive moment of our lives.
Nothing has as profound an impact on us as social creatures as a friend or partner, be they human or pet.
I hope I’ve shown just some of the facets of friendship.

Friends help you out, make you laugh or just keep you company and much more.

These photo’s were taken at parks or on the way to parks in my neighbourhood.

They were spontaneous, not planned; I went out over a period of weeks to get good photo’s that fit my theme.

After all you can’t plan decisive moments, they just happen.

The tourists that are lost, looking at their smart phone for directions was taken from a foot bridge; I decided to leave the image uncropped as I felt the space around them helped to convey the feeling of being lost in a strange place.

The Police women and their mounts standing shoulder to shoulder I think  is a sign of their support for one another, their resolve if you will.

The children eating Ice cream together is a  perfect example of a bonding situation and a decisive moment of peace for the adult.

The others were all chosen for their expressions.

Have I succeeded in what was set for me to do ?

I think so but we’ll see if my tutor agree’s.

The decisive moment – where I currently stand.

After watching the you tube video on Bresson and doing exercise 3 I find that I neither agree with or disagree with Henri on this topic.

I’m more in line with Roman philosopher Seneca, “Luck Is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”, I think this sums it up most admirably.

Exercise 3.3


1. What do the time-frames of the camera actually look like?

If you have a manual film camera, open the camera back (make sure there’s no film in the camera
first!) and look through the shutter as you press the shutter release.

What is the shortest duration in which your eyes can perceive a recognisable image in bright daylight?

Describe the experiment in your learning log.

2. Find a good viewpoint, perhaps fairly high up (an upstairs window might do) where you can see a wide view or panorama.

Start by looking at the things closest to you in the foreground.

Then pay attention to the details in the middle distance and, finally, the things towards the horizon.

Now try to see the whole landscape together, from the foreground to horizon (you can move your eyes).
Include the sky in your observation and try to see the whole visual field together, all in movement (there is always some movement).

When you’ve got it, raise your camera and take a picture. Add the picture and a description of the process to your learning log.



I don’t have a film camera so couldn’t do the first part of this exercise.

For the second part I went to Putney bridge and set my camera to shutter priority mode and did as described in the brief.








This exercise is to help get you used to observing.

In this photograph of the Thames from Putney bridge I did as described in the brief.

What I noticed once I got the image into post processing was the little things that I hadn’t noticed whilst taking the shot.

The most obvious was the sea-gull that I should’ve expected to be around water but just didn’t notice until afterwards.

It’s often the little things that make or break an image.



This reminds me of days at the rifle range and the watch and shoot exercises we did.

you’d be told a direction but not a distance, then when given the command “up” you had a couple of seconds to put two well-aimed shots on target.

It’s all designed to get you thinking and observing.

Observational skills can’t be taught, they can only be developed through practice.

I can only observe through my experience that people have a tendency to not look up.