Monday, 18 January 2010

Project 44: Low Sun

This project is to demonstrate the advantages of shooting when the sun is low in the sky (which is almost always at this time of the year in Edinburgh!). Nonetheless, I found this project a little challenging, to choose interesting subjects and create good photos from them. I think this is an area where I'm not too strong - I generally take photos of -scapes (land/building/sea), instead of specific objects.

Anyway, I managed to take some photos demonstrating the different light effects, and the differences certainly are striking. Each of the light conditions (rather, angle to the sun/light source) creates different challenges in exposure.

Photo 1: Frontal Lighting, the sun is behind the camera. Here the colourful play equipment is strongly coloured and almost jumps out the photo, though the whole thing looks quite 2-dimensional.
From Project_44

f/8, 1/180s, 32mm

Photo 2: Side Lighting, the sun is to the left of the camera. In this example there is some shadow, which gives the photo more interest and dimensionality.
From Project_44

f/8, 1/125s, 35mm

Photo 3: Back Lighting, where I shoot directly into the sun (or the direction of the sun at least). The play equipment is highly reflective, and this causes problems for exposure. I have not taken a silhouette image in this case, but this is the situation when you would get a silhouette, if you expose for the bright sky behind the object, not possible in this situation.
From Project_44

f/8, 1/350s, 50mm

Photo 4: Edge Lighting. This is a challenge! Shooting in the direction of the sun, but the sun is just out of the frame (to one side) and the edge of the subject is lit. I have been looking for this one for a while, and today on the canal I thought this photo of reeds was quite close to what edge lighting is. I also remembered a photo from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008 awards which showed an excellent (and memorable) use of this type of lighting. The photo is 'Polar Sunrise' and is by Miguel Lasa. I link to his photo here, of a bear in early morning light, where the background is all black and there is just the edge of the bear outlined in sunlight. Simply stunning!
From Project_44

f/4, 1/500s, 70mm


Last weekend I decided to have a bit of a play with my new flash and take some photos of myself. The setup was quite simple - flash through white umbrella, me against a cream wall, with a bit of natural light coming in through the window. I thought for the People & Places course it would be useful trying being on the other side of the camera for a change! Though using the timer is not ideal, as you need to hold the expression at the right time, which lacks spontaneity. Somewhat of a solution would be a remote, but I'm not sure you can get one for my camera, and I don't know how much I'd really use it. Also it's quite hard to set the focus up. I think I did OK on this shoot, but sometimes the eyes are a little soft (not a problem so much with these torso shots, but a major challenge for head/shoulders shots). Anyway, here is one of the photos, post-processed to B&W in photoshop. It will also explain my upcoming absence from photography activities, until the baby shots start coming in!!

From Miscellaneous

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Project 48: Cloudy and Dull Weather

This project explores taking photos in cloudy and dull weather (quite common here at this time of year!). I compare two scenes photographed in sunshine and then cloudy conditions, and also show some examples of photos which benefit from cloudy light and would not be better taken in strong sunlight. Cloudy light is kind to textured surfaces, and faces, and provides even, diffuse lighting. Sunlight is good for emphasising strong bright colours, and for using shadows to add form to a photo, but can be difficult for getting the correct exposure. However, there is quite a noticible difference in the light avaliable for shooting in cloudy conditions, two stops in both the examples below. This can make the difference between handheld and tripod use, or may mean ISO needs to be increased in cloudy conditions. The situation is exacerbated in rain or with particularly dark clouds around. In addition, it is important to consider the WB used, as there is an obvious blue 'wash' to photos taken in cloudy conditions but using sunlight WB setting.

Photo 1: Photo taken in strong sunlight.
From Project_48_TAOP

f/8, 1/90s, 48mm

Photo 2: Similar photo taken in cloudy conditions, using sunlight WB setting. The photo has a blue 'wash' to it, and the lighting is much softer and more even over the face. I think this is preferable to the sunlit photo, where the shadows are quite strong and dominant on the face. This photo has about 2 stops less light than the sunlit image.
From Project_48_TAOP

f/4, 1/90s, 50mm

Photo 3: Similar photo taken in cloudy conditions, using cloudy WB setting. Here the skin tones are more appropriate, and some of the blue tinge is gone from the photo.
From Project_48_TAOP

f/4, 1/125s, 50mm

Photo 4: Photo taken in strong sunlight. The colours are strong and bright and clear.
From Project_48_TAOP

f/8, 1/350s, 32mm

Photo 5: Similar photo taken in cloudy conditions, using sunlight WB setting. The same blue 'wash' is present in this photo - and it quite suits the snowy, cold-looking setting. This photo has about 2 stops less light than the sunlit image.
From Project_48_TAOP

f/4, 1/250s, 50mm

Photo 6: Similar photo taken in cloudy conditions, using cloudy WB setting. Here the buildings have lost the blue tinge, and look a more realistic colour.
From Project_48_TAOP

f/4, 1/250s, 50mm

Photo 7: A photo taken at Cramond recently on an overcast day (long exposure). Here the scene is moody and dark, and would be not nearly as interesting taken in full sunlight!
From Project_48_TAOP

f/22, 15s, 24mm

Photo 8: A slightly quirky photo taken as a possible photo for Assignment 3, near to the Edinburgh canal. The day is overcast and the light softly diffuse over the whole scene. The colours of grafitti are quite bright and strong in this photo.
From Project_48_TAOP

f/4.5, 1/125s, 45mm

Photo 9: Another photo taken as a possible photo for Assignment 3. It was taken in cloudy conditions, which suit both the even lighting required and the reflection in the water, and lack of bright highlights, which I don't think would have suited the photo.
From Project_48_TAOP

f/5.6, 1/8s, 48mm

Photo 10: Example of photos taken in my archives that suit the cloudy situation, and would not have been better in strong sunlight. This first photo is taken in the NW Scottish highlands, and both because of the detail in the rocks and the water reflection, would not be better in strong sunlight.
From Project_48_TAOP

f/6.7, 1/250s, 45mm

Photo 11: A second, somewhat moody photo taken in Venice which also would not be better in strong sunlight, where the shadows would take over the photo. Here there is enough detail under the arch and to the water beyond, whereas in stronger light this may not be the case. The even lighting was beneficial for taking this photo.
From Project_48_TAOP

f/5, 1/80s, 43mm

PS - Thanks very much to Duncan for showing me how to link to my photos in picasaweb - now you can click on the photos above to see the camera settings and leave comments on individual photos if you want in picasa. The learning process continues!!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Exercise 1: Portrait, Scale & Setting

This is the first project/exercise in the People & Places course. It is an exercise in composition and weight of attention placed on the face and other body parts, depending on the framing. I took LOTS of photos of my subject (who was very patient) at various scales, and orientations, and he obliged by responding to my bad jokes and suggestions of where to look etc. I found focusing a little challenging; it was difficult to keep the focus on the eyes, but from looking at the results afterwards it seems that they are all generally in good focus. I used my flash through a white umbrella off to one side, and there is some fill-light from the nearby window, though next time I might try using the reflector to fill the light on the other side of his face. The four photos below are what I think the 'best' for each scale, though I have other favourites too! After doing this project I felt more comfortable with my equipment (fairly new to using external flash), and it wasn't too hard to suggest poses and to get my subject to come up with good expressions.

Photo 1: Face, cropped in close
This gives a very intimate view of the subject, and most of the attention is focused on his eyes, and also on his mouth. The lit eye is probably the feature which grabs the attention first and holds it the strongest.
55mm, f/9.5, 1/30s, flash through umbrella

Photo 2: Head & Shoulders
The eyes in this case are squinting with laughter (it was a fun photo session) and the eyes and the strong laughter lines around them are the main focal point in the photo, followed by the mouth.
42mm, f/9.5, 1/30s, flash through umbrella

Photo 3: Head and torso, including arms & hands
I liked his pose in this photo, even though the jumper is quite dark, it is an interesting way to position the arms, and suits his position relaxing on the couch. The eyes/face still hold the most interest, but the body and couch are now more important parts of the photo.
28mm, f/9.5, 1/30s, flash through umbrella

Photo 4: Full figure
This is a comfortable looking pose on the front of the couch, chosen as the leaning back look gave a strange effect to the photo. I like the way the stripes down the arms pair with the bent legs to give a kind of 'stacked' effect to the photo.
24mm, f/9.5, 1/30s, flash through umbrella

Friday, 1 January 2010

Project 60: Shiny Surfaces

This has been a project in photographing shiny/reflective surfaces. I am photographing a watch and bracelet on a simple black background. In both reference shots (different light position), there is a slight reflection of the camera in the watch band, and the light is harsh and there are strong shadows. By using tracing paper in a cone around the lends and subject, the reflection should only be of the tracing paper, and the light will also be diffused through the paper. The differences between the level (angle/height) of the flash are seen less in the two shots with tracing paper. There is also no reflection of the camera in these photos. Overall the effect is really large & the photos with tracing paper look much more professional - and this is only with the simple use of tracing paper!

Photo 1: Reference shot 1. Light high, direct light.
100mm, f/8, 1/8s, ISO200, flash

Photo 2: Reference shot 2. Light low, direct light.
100mm, f/8, 1/8s, ISO200, flash

Photo 3: With tracing paper in cone between camera lens and subject. Light low.
100mm, f/8, 1/8s, ISO200, flash

Photo 4: With tracing paper in cone between camera lens and subject. Light high.
100mm, f/8, 1/8s, ISO200, flash

Project 59: Concentrating Light

This project was to understand about concentrating light from a single source, using a simple rolled up piece of black cardboard. The first image shows the still-life setup with the single direct light source. The following photos are variations on aperture and how close the black cardboard was held to the light source, and it's angle. How close it was held impacts on whether the other background flowers are lit at all, and the angle impacts on how the flowers in a line from the tube to the front flower behind it are lit.

This technique might be better with a second light to separately light the background flowers, allowing the flower to lit from a better angle and focus more attention on it. It was quite difficult to be consistent with this cardboard roll technique, though its an interesting methodology, and fun project to try.

Photo 1: Direct Light Source, slightly above subject
35mm, f/8, 1/8s, ISO200, direct flash

Photo 2: Cardboard roll held to light but allowing some light to escape to light the background flowers.
35mm, f/5.6, 1/8s, ISO200, direct flash

Photo 3: Cardboard roll held to light but allowing some light to escape to light the background flowers. Slight decrease in aperture to darken photo and emphasise the front flower more.
35mm, f/4.5, 1/8s, ISO200, direct flash

Photo 4: Cardboard roll close to light.
35mm, f/6.7, 1/8s, ISO200, direct flash

Photo 5: Cardboard roll close to light, angled downwards to focus light further on front flower.
35mm, f/6.7, 1/8s, ISO200, direct flash