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.

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Exercise 4.3

Brief:

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.

Process:

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.

Pictures:

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.

Research:

None.

Analysis:

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.

Reflections:

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

Brief:

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.

 

Process:

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.

 

 

Pictures:

07:22
08:31
09:40
10:44
11:49
12:56
13:55
14:56
15:58
17:07
18:06
19:36
contact sheet

Research:

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.

 

Analysis:

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.

Reflections:

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

Brief:

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.

Process:

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.

Pictures:

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

Research:

None.

Analysis:

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.

Reflections:

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.