Assignment four: Applying lighting techniques

For this assignment it is required to draw together the different lighting techniques studied  and apply them to one object. The idea is to use new knowledge of lighting to bring out particular physical properties of the same subject.

“Choose any object you can move around and take a selection of photographs of it, each in a different kind of lighting. You can use any light at all, from daylight to available artificial light, to photographic lighting.” I had a number of ideas for the subject to use and after a number of test runs decided to use a ceramic sculpture of a blue hare which has unusual textures and subtle colours which I hoped would be accentuated with various lighting techniques.

Shape: This quality has to do with the outline of an object – it’s edges. These are more likely to stand out more clearly if they contrast with the background, and if there is minimum detail visible in the object.

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Both photographs were taken indoors on a bright day with the backdrop of a closed window-blind to diffuse the light. This had the effect of making the window a type of large soft-box. I orientated the hare in two different positions to accentuate the different shapes demonstrated.

Form: This is another way to describe the volume of an object – how 3 dimensional it looks. The modelling effect of the light and the way you deal with the shadows is all important. Try to show as much depth as possible.

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To demonstrate the 3D effect of the sculpture I used tungsten downlighting in a dark environment to create shadows and depth against a background of a canvas photograph.

Texture: This is the quality of the surface detail. Fine detail, such as sandstone and skin, stands out best with a pattern of small, hard shadows, so you will have to consider both the diffusion (or lack of it) and the angle of light.

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I used two different kinds of lighting here with the top one utilising tungsten downlighting and the bottom photo direct flash lighting.

Colour: Choose a kind of lighting and exposure setting that shows the subject’s colour (or colours) as strongly as possible. In addition, you could photograph your subject in any other interesting, unusual or attractive lighting.

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These two examples shows the effect different lighting has on the colours of an object. The top image is photographed in natural sunlight against a green grass background and produces a mauve tint to the sculpture.

The second lower image is photographed with a direct spotlight and highlights the bright blues of the sculpture.

This assignment has been the most challenging so far for me. Perhaps due to the fact that I was lacking certain lighting accessories and that there were many lengthy exercises. However it has been very interesting and I have learn a lot on how different lighting techniques can alter the appearance of an object or scene which will be very useful in future photographic assignments.

Tutor report on Assignment 4:

Overall Comments

Thank you for completing another assignment for feedback, Graeme. I am pleased to see that you have taken note of comments made with the last assignment and I feel sure that will continue to work hard up to the point of submitting your work.

Assessment potential 

I understand your aim is to go for the Photography Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to succeed at assessment.  In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.

Elements to consider with your assignments:

This assignment asks you to draw together the different lighting techniques that you have been studying and apply them to one object. The idea is to use your new knowledge of lighting to bring our particular physical properties of the same object. It is also a test of your observation.

Your assignment in connection with the above points:

You have used a sculpture of a hare as subject matter for this assignment. This has worked well for you on a technical level, allowing you to move around with ease and to experiment with different lighting effects.

Shape:

Backlighting has been used very effectively here to demonstrate shape. The blinds have helped you to create a source of diffused light from the window – as you point out, forming a natural soft box. Positioning your subject in front of this has resulted in a silhouetted outline which shows the shape very clearly.

Form:

You have worked very well with angles of view here alongside your lighting techniques and by doing so managed to achieve the desired aim or including 3-D detail of your subject. The backdrop landscape adds a nice touch of this, building on the apparent 3-d effect and adding a sense of humour to the result.

Texture:

Texture detail is really starting to appear in these examples. You could also work with sharp angles – shooting from and also from a strong direct source of light to accentuate shadows and define texture. You have some nice strong colour coming through here too.

Colour:

The vivid green grass has absorbed some of the colour in the first image. A more neutral background would have helped draw us to the more subtle colours of your statue. The second example, with a strong direct light source, works much better and we can also see some nice texture detail in this picture.

Summary/ Pointers for next assignment

You have worked well with the task given here, but could have taken this stage a step further, trying out some more interesting lighting setups and being a little more experimental. The last assignment asks you to work in a thematic way and to incorporate narrative. This is your opportunity to really show what you are capable of with your photography. Plan your theme carefully and choose your final images based on their ability to work together to tell the story effectively.

Learning logs/critical essays

You do need to build substantially on the research side of your work before submitting for assignment as your learning logs are looking quite sparse. Images aren’t always appearing as they should so this is also something to address.

My thoughts and reflections: 

I am generally happy with the feedback in this report as this was the most challenging assignment yet. I have very limited experience in using additional external lighting and in fact have no additional lighting equipment apart from a built in flash and hence felt restricted in what I could achieve.  I will address any images that are not appearing and continue to expand my research work.

Project Available light

Exercise: Tungsten and fluorescent lighting

The first part of this exercise was in a room with a tungsten lamp lighting the scene through a window out to the garden. I waited until the light levels indoors and outdoors were about equal and then took three photos, in the first with the white balance set to auto, the second with it set to daylight and the third where it was set to incandescent. The settings for each photo were f4.0 @ 1/6 sec, 200 ISO.

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_GWD5211 Incandescent WB

From these photos, it’s clear that using the incandescent white balance has produced a much more natural image than the other two, which appear to be too orange. The daylight white balance image produces an oppressive orange colour whereas the auto white balance setting is more acceptable. What is very clear is the blue glow from the window with the incandescent image.

For the second part of this exercise I don’t have a fluorescent light at home and will complete once I have a setting with one available.

Exercise: Outdoors at night

Project The time of day

Exercise: Light through the day

As the sun moves through the sky, it creates new possibilities for photography. Sunrise, early morning, mid morning, midday, afternoon, late afternoon and sunset all have a special character in their light.

This exercise involves choosing a clear sunny day and photographing a single scene from dawn to dusk. I chose a landscape location from my garden of a clear view of a former church – now an antique emporium. I set the tripod up early in the morning and selected the fixed view for the rest of the day. i simply had to adjust the exposure as time progressed and take the photo as close as possible on an hourly basis. Fortunately for late February we were experiencing a high pressure system and I could ‘guarantee’ uninterrupted sunlit cloudless skies for the whole day! Sunrise on this day was 07.15 and sunset was 17.45.

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I had expected the best results to be around the early morning and late afternoon as this is the time of day that I would choose to take landscape photographs. The view looked due north which meant the sun would rise on the right of the view travel behind me during the day and set approximately to my left. Which image do I prefer – in this case the 16.40 which has enough colour in the trees to give some interest.

Exercise: Variety with a low sun

This was an exercise to demonstrate some of the advantages of shooting when the sun is low in the sky. I shot the photos below 1 1/2 hours before sunset on a March day hence the sun was pretty low in the sky.

_GWD4878 frontal lighting

With the sun behind the camera this produced a likeable effect (particularly as the camera was looking towards the blue sky).

_GWD4879 side lighting

Certainly quite a different effect with the colour of the elephant very different in this shot with the sun coming from the left.

_GWD4880 back lighting

Agin a very different shot and not an angle I would normally take shooting into the sun.

_GWD4882edge lighting

Not certain this is edge lighting but I quite like the effect this produced which accentuated the colour and texture of the wood in the elephant.

_GWD4894 twilight

Exercise: Cloudy weather and rain

First part: Sunlight and Cloud

Second part: Overcast

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The three images above taken in overcast light allow the details in the granite and the wood to come through showing the speckles in the stone and the grain in the wood. In a stronger sunlit light these may have become lost in the strong shadows and contrast.

Third part: Rain

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As it suggests in the coursework “a rainbow is a special bonus”. This was appeared just at the right time. A perfect example of why photography should not stop just because it rains.

Project The colour of light

Exercise: Judging colour temperature 1

In most photography there is no need to be exact about colour temperature; it is enough to know when the light is not white, if only by a little, or by a lot.  For this exercise a subject was chosen that can be moved around and is not of a strong colour, also a clear sunny day was required.  Three photographs were taken, one in full sun during the middle of the day, one with the subject in the shade and a third when the sun is close to the horizon. The camera’s white balance must be set to ‘daylight’ not ‘automatic’.

I chose my dog for this as he is fairly moveable (too moveable in fact) and because he is a consistent ‘blonde’ colour like a skin tone.

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      sunlight during the middle of the day

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        shade during the middle of the day

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         sun on the horizon during sunset

Interesting results with the midday sun image providing the closest to the true colour. The shaded image is bluer and cold whereas the sunset image provides a more natural orange tint to the coat.

Exercise: Judging colour temperature 2

For this exercise the same time of day was utilised except in this case the white balance was varied in each case to ‘sunlight’, ‘shade’ and ‘Auto’.

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          midday sunlight  / WB: sunlight

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               midday sunlight / WB: shade

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                  midday sunlight / WB: Auto

The sunlight and auto WB settings gave a truer colour than the shade setting. The shade WB setting produced an orange tint to the dog and the grass. I would be happy to use either sunlight and auto in this midday sun setting.

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               midday shade / WB: sunlight

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              midday shade / WB: shade

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            midday shade / WB: Auto

In the midday shade I saw very different results. The WB sunlight produced a bluer colder colour and the shade and auto setting produced the truer colours with the shade being my preference.

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             setting sun / WB: sunlight

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               setting sun / WB: shade

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                setting sun / WB: Auto

Less of a difference between these three images. The sunlight and the auto WB probably give the closest to the true colours whilst the shade WB gave a more intense orange tint to the coat.

Conclusion: I’ve  learned that there is a marked range in the colour temperature depending at what time of day the photograph is taken. As these exercises were completed in late February at a fairly northern latitude the midday sun was consequently low in the sky. The auto WB does a reasonably good job of compensating for the different light settings – which is what I normally have used in the past for most photographs.

colour-temperature

This shows the variation in colour temperatures from 2,000 K at early sunrise through 5,000 K at noon up to 8,000 K with an overcast daylight sky.

Project The intensity of light

Exercise: Measuring exposure

This exercise consists of two parts. The first part is to produce photos which are either over – or underexposed and to explain why.  Adjusting the compensation bracketing can lighten or darken an image to achieve something more acceptable to the eye. The second part is to take 5 – 6 pictures of any subject and each one with 5 different exposure values (increasing and decreasing by 0.5 stops arranged around the best exposure).

Part one, a deliberately lighter or darker than average image:

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Nikon D90 at 105mm, ISO 200, 1/30 sec at f5.3

This first picture was taken at +2 stops (overexposed). If I had taken it at the best exposure as measured by the meter the colours and textures of the bird feeder would have been too dark and it would have been impossible to determine colour on the bird itself.

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Nikon D90 at 60mm, ISO 200, 1/1500 sec at f4.8

In this exposure I wanted to silhouette the foreground and bring out the colours and depth of the late afternoon winter sky. A ‘normal’ metered exposure would have blown out the sky and hence a -1.5 stop (underexposed) image.

Part Two: photographs taken around the best ‘measured’ exposure: left to right -1.0, -0.5, 0, +0.5, +1.0

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Nikon D90 at 400mm, ISO 800, 1/350, 1/250, 1/180, 1/125, 1/90 sec at f5.6

My preference is the +0.5 exposure (enlarged) for the truer colour tones of the grasses.

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Nikon D90 at 48mm, ISO 800, 1/3000, 1/1500, 1/1000, 1/750, 1/500 sec at f4.5

My preferred exposure is the -0.5 (enlarged) which represents a truer colour and texture of the stone.

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Nikon D90 at 40mm, ISO 400, 1/400, 1/300, 1/200, 1/100, 1/75 sec at f4.5

A difficult exposure to get right due to the constant grey colour and relatively dark exposure, however my preferred exposure is the +0.5 (enlarged) which shows a sharper and truer colour of the wing mirror.

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Nikon D90 at 62mm, ISO 800, 1/2000, 1/1500, 1/750, 1/500, 1/350 sec at f4.5

The first two underexposed images are too dark and create a slight silhouette effect which I did not want. My optimal exposure is the +0.5 (enlarged) which shows a truer colour of the sky and foreground as well as the buildings.

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Nikon D90 at 400mm, ISO 800, 1/1000, 1/750, 1/500, 1/350, 1/250 sec at f4.0

In this case I have 2 images that would be acceptable, the +0.5 (enlarged) as well as the ‘correct’ exposure per the camera meter.

All in all an interesting exercise which does prove the need to take a series of different exposures of the same picture (bracketing). I have always been aware of the need to do this but in realty have rarely used this technique. This is now something I will consider more carefully in the future.

Exercise: Higher and lower sensitivity

The first part of this exercise requires similar shots to be taken at ‘normal’ and ‘high’ sensitivity. The situation chosen should be marginal; that is, where the mixture of light level and subject movement or depth of field is only just possible. The first shot is taken at normal sensitivity (ISO 100 or 200) and the second taken at a higher sensitivity (ISO 800 or 1600).

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ISO 100 @ 0.5 sec f19.0      ISO 800 @ 1/15 sec f19.0

Both images taken indoors without flash. The first one at ISO 100 was too slow for a hand-held image and hence considerable blur. The second at ISO 800 produced a faster and more acceptable shutter speed and a sharper image.

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ISO 100 @ 0.5 sec f19.0      ISO 800 @ 1/10 sec f19.0

An exaggerated effect of this evening sunset taken at ISO 100 and 800. Clearly the first image produced too slow a shutter speed however the second was more acceptable at the higher sensitivity level.

 

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  ISO 200 @ 1/20 f19.0        ISO 400 @ 1/45 f19.0        ISO 800 @ 1/125 f19.0         

 

 

 

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ISO 1000 @ 1/180 f19.0

A series of images taken at increasing sensitivity at a small aperture to give a larger depth of field. In order to ‘freeze’ the movement of the car across the frame it was the higher ISO 1000 image that achieved a fast enough shutter speed.