Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Feedback from OCA Flickr Group on Assignment Four

Posted up my images for the light module and had a really interesting comment/question from another user which I have posted below. It was posted under Shape Two.

  1. I agree with Pete, this one photo is (to me) the best from the set, but I'm personally not fond of post processing effects.
    Can I ask something, and it is intended to be read with a gentle smile.... I've just had a look through your stream, and there is some amazing portraiture work, with really cool UV light shots. You seem to have a great report with people..... why did you choose this object for such an important and open themed assignment... why not having a go at using a person and go crazy with all these light effects or explorations? 
    It's not meant as a criticism, but in comparison with some of your beautiful portraiture work, this set of images feel really like a box-ticking exercise ... I'm so sorry to say.

  2. Hi thanks for the comments. It's my first time using post processing effects to be honest, I usually keep things quite simple but thought why not experiment a bit.
    @southliving - really interesting question thanks :) I'm basically still so new to photography only having my DSLR for a year now. I was never interested in portraits until around April this year when I suddenly became addicted! I'm still very much trying everything out and being a sponge, learning as much as possible. With the assignments I'm aiming to vary my subjects and have a range of shots at the end of the module. Assignment one was my first nude shoot and assignment two my first time booking an MUA, models and setting the whole thing up solo. I haven't really done much still life so trying it out and seeing if it grabs me like fashion and people did. Before the course I was only interested in landscape and wildlife and always asked people to move out of my way! Ideally I wanted to use one of my photogenic cats as a subject, but with positioning them while I played with the lights would have been nigh on impossible. The subject and shots definitely weren't box ticking, all were thought out and ideas planned in advance. Looks like I have a lot to learn about still life to make it more appealing, but it will be a fun challenge

    I'm going to take this as a learning point moving forwards. I am still keen to try different subjects and ideas for this first module. I definitely take the assignments seriously and put in a lot of work so I hope my tutor doesn't feel the same. I've learnt so much already and hope to keep learning and improving month by month.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Assignment Four - Light

Websters dictionary defines photography as “the art or process of producing images by action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface”(1). This makes studying light of particular importance for any and all photographers. Without light we cannot tame pictures. For a photographer light is tied in with contrast and brightness to show tonal relationships. There is an Italian expression “chiaroscuro” which speaks of the dramatic modeling of subjects in paintings by the use of shafts of light used to illuminate any dark scenes(2). As well as using light to express contrast and brightness, it is also used to highlight colour. This can be done with coloured light bulbs, but even white light comes in different colours(3). One thing I have been experimenting with since starting this module is experimenting with white balance. Changing one simple setting has such a dramatic effect on the colour of a photograph and it’s interesting using it for creative effect (especially tungsten/shade).

Another experiment has been looking at how other photographers use light and I have begun studying August Sander(4) and Edward Watson(5) (his nudes in particular although I found his photographs of shells fascinating also) as suggested by my tutor. When attending photography exhibitions now I am always looking at the use of light, colour, shapes and composition. Some of Sally Mann’s landscape work where she has documented battle fields makes lovely use of light and shadows in particular.

For this assignment I wanted to chose a subject that was portable and had an interesting form, shape and texture so it wouldn’t become dull photographing a series of pictures of it. I settled on a ornate candle holder from my mantlepiece. It is a set of two and I preferred the skirt that the female of the pair wore so she became my final choice. I tried to vary my composition and experiment with a few different ideas that I hadn’t tried previously which I think came out quite nicely. There are still a few that look a little similar to each other composition wise, but overall I think the collection as it is short holds the observers interest.

Colour 1

ISO 100
WB Sunlight

Taken with the subject placed in the sun at the middle of the day. I wanted the sunshine to show the actual colour of the subject and have it lit in a pleasing manner so I experimented with where I positioned the subject to get the effect I wanted. I settled for the sun being at the side so it wasn’t so harsh shining on the slightly metallic texture.

Colour 2

ISO 200
WB 5560K

Shot indoors against a black cloth background. I used a piece of coloured clear plastic taped to the front of the flash to experiment with the colour. First I tried a blue/aqua colour but I wasn’t happy with the results so moved to purple which I liked much more. I like the colour effect and that it still brings out all of the detail of the subject. 

Form 1

ISO 100
WB sunlight

Taken in the morning, two hours after sunrise. Positioned so that the sunlight came from the side to give a sense of shadows and form. I wanted the light to help create a three dimensional effect and not have the subject looking flat. The blurred background helps the subject to stand out.

Form 2

ISO 100
WB 5560K

Taken indoors with a flash fired from behind a white umbrella to act as a diffuser. Light stand placed to the side to emphasize shadows and form. Again I wanted to see the shadows on the subject to really feel like it is a three dimensional object and not just a drawing on a black background. 

Shape 1

ISO 100
WB sunlight

Taken in the morning, two hours after sunrise to give the long shadow. Positioned with the sun behind me shining into the subject. I tried this in black and white as well but settled on the colour version. I wanted the shape of the subject as well as the shape replicated in the shadow and found this time of day and position worked the best after experimenting.

Shape 2

ISO 100
WB sunlight

Taken in the morning, two hours after sunrise. Taken on my NIkon DLSR and processed using Snapseed on my iPad. I knew I was going to do a silhouette as soon as I saw the exercise, it was the first idea that came to me. I took this when the sun was low so I could take the shot with the sun behind the subject and I balanced it on a post box. I then decided to experiment a bit and use an editing app to make the effect more dramatic. 

Texture 1

ISO 100
WB 5560K

Taken indoors using a long exposure. I had read a few magazine articles on light painting so decided to experiment for texture. I focused manually, locked it and then turned off all the lights. I then used a small hand held torch to paint/bathe the subject in light during the ten seconds. I wanted to bring out every last detail and all the folds of the skirt.

Texture 2

ISO 200
WB shade

Taken in the shade in the middle of a sunny day. I found doing the exercises that shade on a nice day brought out details and textures so I wanted to try this for the assignment with a different composition. I like the skirt and the detail on the tights so focused on those areas eliminating the rest of the subject.

1 Websters Dictionary (1839)
2 The Photographers Eye - Michael Freeman (2007) Ilex, East Sussex

3 Light: Science and Magic (4th Edition) - Fil Hunter, Steve Biver, Paul Fuqua (2012) Focal Press, Oxford

4 Face of Our Time - August Sander (1994/2003) Schirmer Art Books, London

5 Icons - Edward Watson (2008) Taschen, London

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Exhibition - Steve McCurry

I went to this exhibition whilst I was in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I've noticed that when I travel I tend to visit a lot more photography exhibitions, it's become a priority for me. These were exhibited along with many others in a room at the top of the Castle overlooking the city which made for a lovely setting. He is a photographer I hadn't come across before, but now I see his prints and photographs everywhere. He is a Magnum photographer and his main website is here.

What I loved about his pictures in general was the colours and textures. His pictures really sum up moods as well and they are so vivid you feel like you are being drawn into the images in the various exotic locations. My favourite pictures from the exhibition are below and I will definitely be looking up more of his work moving forwards.

Coal Miner Smoking, Afghanistan, 2002
Such intense eyes and I love the whispy smoke trail. If only my portraits were half as good as this I would be a happy photographer. The dirt is so engrained into his face and hand, I wonder if he is ever able to get completely clean.

Young Monks Video Games, Indonesia, 2001
Wonderful composition and colours. The red stands out beautifully form the textured grey/blue background. The boys without the games look they are having more fun than those with the games though!

Elephant and Man Reading, Chaing Mai, 2010
Here I love the gentleness of the young elephant as it leans against the young man who is so engrossed in his book. It almost looks like the elephant is trying to read the book over the man's shoulder like people do on the tube.

Holi Festival, Rajasthan India, 1996
Just look at the colours. The green man being carried by whose covered in red powder. It definitely conveys the idea of a religious celebration in the pose and expression of rapture on the green man's face.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Exhibition - Sally Mann

I recently visited Stockholm, Sweden and spent an afternoon in the Fotografiska Museum which was dedicated solely to photography. They had three exhibitions on during the time I was there and the one I spent the most time in and enjoyed the most featured work by Sally Mann. Her website is here and she is an American photographer based in Virginia. She first became known for her book Immediate Family (published in the 1990s) which contained shots of her three children growing up. It became very controversial and a lot of religious and moral groups raised questions of child pornography etc due to the nudity in many of the images. Personally I think this is ridiculous. The children were raised in quite a rural setting and I love that the collection captures growing up so well with the bumps, bruises, arguments etc.

The exhibition contained a broad range of her work including shots from Immediate Family all the way to her recent self portraits and work in a forensic study centre in Tennesse where she photographed bodies in various stages of decay. Possibly the most interesting part was a documentary playing shot during her time taking the forensic photographs and trying (and failing) to get them shown in a gallery in New York. It was a touching look at her life, surrounding friends and family and her whole photographic process. She is also doing a series with her husband Larry who she met as a young woman (19 versus his 22). He suffers from a rare incurable form of muscular dystrophy which sees his muscles wasting away.

She uses a technique from the 1800s. A collodion wet plate which creates a large-format negative image on glass, not film. She shoots with antique view cameras from the early 1900s, the kind where you duck under a cloth to take the picture. They are carried on massive wooden tripod legs and a long brass lens held together with tape. I can't even begin to understand how to use one when I'm so used to digital, but the process of developing the negative is fascinating. Below are a few of my favourite pictures that really captured my attention. Funnily enough they are all from Immediate Family and I think I will have to get a copy of the book to have a proper look and read all the captions in full. My absolute stand out favourite is Jessie Bites. I love the bitemark on the adult arm, the war paint and the expression on Jessie's face. She looks like a little warrior Queen just after a successful battle.

Popsicle Drips

Orange Virginia

Three Graces

Emmet's Blood Nose

Jessie Bites

Friday, September 7, 2012

Project Photographic Lighting : Exercise Shiny Surfaces

I found this exercise really difficult. It was so hard trying to get the tracing paper right without my hand in the shot. I am not sure how you would do this in a studio, maybe a light tent?

DSC_0361 - No tracing paper tunnel. Lots of lens flare and bounced flash reflections.

DSC_0362 - Tracing paper tunnel which took out the lens flare and dramatically reduced the flash reflections.

DSC_0363 - Moved the light to see how it affected the reflection

Project Photographic Lighting : Exercise Concentrating the Light

I took these in a studio using just one light falling onto a nude model. They didn't have a snoot, but we created the effect using a grid to focus it. The light is focused nicely onto different parts of her body highlighting different areas nicely. I had a lot of fun posing the model and playing with the light and the shapes it made with her body.




Project Photographic Lighting : Exercise Contrast and Shadow Fill

I used some raw food ingredients for this still life. I also enlisted my husband to help with the card. The camera was set on a tripod and the light was fixed to a stand to the left of the subject. Later shots were taken with a large piece of white card either plain or covered in aluminium foil as directed in the exercise notes.

DSC_0348 - No white umbrella/diffuser

DSC_0349 - With white umbrella to diffuse the light (much softer shadows visible especially on the green pepper)

DSC_0350 - Card at 3 feet away

DSC_0351 - Card at 1.5 feet away

DSC_0352 - Card at 0.75 feet away

DSC_0353 - Card at 0.375 feet away

DSC_0354 - Card at 0.1875 feet away (the least amount of shadows on the right hand side of the subject. More and more of the tomato is hidden by shadow the closer the card is placed)

DSC_0355 - Card covered in aluminium foil dull side out (the whole set up is lighter, especially the tomato)

DSC_0356 - Card covered in aluminium foil shiny side out

DSC_0357 - Card with aluminium foil crumpled, shiny side out

Project Photographic Lighting : Exercise The Lighting Angle

I used a speedlight attached to a light stand with a white umbrella to diffuse it. I asked my husband nicely to be the subject and he was very patient as I moved the light stand around him and then above him. My Nikon D5100 was kept still on a tripod and I used a remote release to take the pictures.


DSC_0338 - Front Lighting

DSC_0339 - Side Lighting

DSC_0340 - Side and slightly behind lighting

DSC_0341 - Behind lighting

DSC_0342 - Pointing down and in front

DSC_0343 - Pointing down from the side

DSC_0344 - Pointing down from the side and slightly behind

DSC_0345 - Pointing down from behind

DSC_0346 - Light directly overhead

DSC_0347 - Light directly overhead and slightly in front

DSC_0348 - Light directly overhead and slightly behind

It's interesting seeing the different the light makes on the shadows across the face. Especially around the eyes, nose and mouth. For looking at the form/shape of the face, I like side lighting and slightly behind lighting. It gives more depth to the features, creates pleasing shadows and gives cues about the three dimensional structure.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Project Photographic Lighting : Exercise Softening the Light

I haven't set up my own photographic lighting before but a friend was kind enough to let me borrow a light stand and white umbrella for a few days to complete this section of work. With the umbrella the shadows are more pronounced under the eyes but the quality of the light is much less harsh.

 DSC_0335 : Naked flash light

DSC_0336 : Flash light softened by shooting through a white umbrella

Project Available Light : Exercise Outdoors at Night

All of the below photographs were taken outdoors at night bar one which was taken in an underground bath house in Istanbul. I took all but one while I was away travelling. Some were taken at sunset, others shortly afterwards and a couple during full dark. After experimenting I definitely prefer the ones where there is some light left in the sky.

DSC_0319 : Bosnia (near Mostar)

DSC_0320 : Bosnia (Mostar Bridge)

DSC_0321 : Bosnia (Mostar)

DSC_0322 : Croatia (Dubrovnik)

DSC_0323 : Croatia (Zagreb)

DSC_0324 : Croatia (Zadar)

DSC_0325 : London (Croydon)

DSC_0326 : Germany (Frankfurt Airport, view from the plane)

DSC_0327 : Hungary (Budapest River)

DSC_0328 : Hungary (Budapest)

DSC_0329 : Montenegro (Kotor)

DSC_0330 : Montenegro (View from the walls above Kotor)

DSC_0331 : Montenegro (above Kotor)

DSC_0332 : Montenegro (view from the walls above Kotor) - Light trails

DSC_0333 : Romania (Sighisora)

DSC_0334 : Turkey (underground Basilica Cistern in Istanbul)

I loved taking photos at this time of day. Even though it was a struggle trekking my tripod around 9 different countries it was definitely worthwhile.