Light- Progress towards Assessment Criteria
On successful completion of this course you’ll be able to:
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
Material, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.
Before beginning this section of the course I was aware that my understanding of light was lacking. Since completing the exercises, reading and assignment I now realise that having knowledge of light and how it behaves is fundamentally important in photography. I feel as though I have had several ‘eureka’ moments when things seemed to have clicked together in my mind.
Examples of these occasions include when I felt as I was beginning to recognise light temperature. I had previously selected WB routinely, based on shooting conditions and was not fully aware of how this affected the image. However, carrying out the ‘Judging Colour Temperature 1 & 2’, exercises and examining the resulting images made it clear to me that the different options compensated for the varying temperatures of the light and also of how this could be used creatively. I have since began experimenting with custom WB options in post-processing and now realise that the temperature my camera, a Nikon D5100, defaults to for Daylight WB is slightly different to the Daylight WB setting preset on Photoshop Elements 11. The ‘Light through the Day’ exercise has also helped me develop an awareness of the colours of changing natural light. On examining the resulting images it was easy to see the huge differences in the light temperature, sometimes even after only minutes of time had lapsed. Following this exercise I downloaded a sun compass from I Tunes, which would allow me to gauge the sun’s position while travelling or in an unfamiliar place.
The exercise on ‘Measuring exposure’ and ‘Higher and Lower Sensitivity” has helped see a shift in the way I meter a shot. Previously I used matrix metering the majority of the time, however I am now better at identifying a mid-tone in a shot and using this to TTL spot meter to achieve a better exposure. I do, nevertheless, realise that mastering an off-camera light meter is the next step. I also knew on a logical level that aperture, shutter speed and ISO had a reciprocal relationship when it came to exposure however these exercises have helped me to realise this practically.
A further ‘eureka’ moment came when I experimented with Bulb mode for the ‘Outdoors at Night’ images here I began to realise the opportunities that long exposures could offer. This encouraged me to use Bulb mode for the Colour 2, light painting shot.
This section of the course has introduced me to many new techniques and pieces of equipment. I fairly recently acquire a speed light and a set of 500w (3200k) tungsten lights that I have found to be a joy to use compared with the desk lamp/daylight set ups that I have used for previous photographs. The lights offered bright, even light without the colour casts that the desk lamps gave. Where to position a light to reveal specific subject qualities was a major element of Assignment Four and as the tungsten lights have a stand and I can position the flash off-camera on a stand, it allowed me to position a light exactly where I wanted it to go and for it to stay in place.
When I previously researched photographic light and came across various light modifiers I quickly became puzzled as to what I would need and how would I use it. Research during this chapter, (Präkel, 2007, Hunter, et al, 2012, Freeman, 2012), made it clear that it clear that if I wanted to control light I would need some tools to be able to do so. I therefore have added modifiers to my kit, such as a large 5-in 1 reflector, a Rogue flash bender that can act as a reflector, flag or snoot, a shoot through umbrella and DIY soft boxes and grid. For this assignment I used some pieces of equipment more than others, such as the shoot through umbrella and reflectors, however I have taken the time to experiment with each item and realise their potential uses.
When deciding how to compose the still-life photographs for this assignment I called upon the learning I had previously undertaken on this course. I considered presenting the images in a square format as this would frame the shape of the pumpkin neatly, however after planning with some sketches I realised the square format felt quite restrictive and a rectangular format would fit some of the compositions better, such as Texture 1 and Form 1.
I tried to vary the compositions between each shot to add visual interest to the series, employing both static and dynamic balance, different camera perspectives, over-filling the frame and varying depths of field.
I also considered making the series consist of both black and white and colour shots as black and white can enhance the qualities of texture and form (Freeman, 2007, p127). However I experimented with a few black and white conversions and found that without the element of colour the pumpkin images seemed lacking. Perhaps because the bright orange colour is often considered a pumpkin’s dominant characteristic?
Quality of Outcome
Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualization of thoughts, communication of ideas.
The learning I have gained throughout this section of the course has been vast and have I found the exercises useful in illustrating how this can be used in practice. I have also found that writing about the steps I undertake during the exercises in my learning log helpful in organising my thoughts and to pinpoint exactly what learning has taken place. Further to this, I find that by linking my thoughts and findings to the research that I have undertaken, whether it be reading or viewing the work of other photographers, my thinking develops and my thoughts consolidate.
When planning and developing the images for Assignment Four I have tried to show how I have applied my newfound knowledge of lighting and how to control it. However, I opted not to use all the equipment and all the techniques to which I have been introduced, as I didn’t want use a snoot or a flag for the sake of it. I choose instead, to select the tools that I felt best fulfilled the assignment criteria by revealing the subject’s attributes.
In terms of presentation of work, I did give quite some thought as to how the work for the assignment could be presented, as noted above, in order for the photographs to hang together as a series and also offer some visual interest.
I have had a few blog problems lately, mainly with missing images and plan to repair this before commencing the next section of the course.
Demonstration of Creativity
Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice
I was aware that while Assignment Four was essentially a technical exercise, I wanted it still to be visually interesting. I initially used a mind map and rough sketches to brainstorm my ideas.
These formed the basis of my ideas but there was a lot of trial and error as I tried out the various techniques and compositions. I returned to the drawing board often to rethink, particularly before I purchased the studio lighting. I had somehow gone from being largely unaware of how to use light at the beginning of this chapter to a point where I knew what I was doing was not good. In the end it has taken me nearly 200 different shots and a period of 4 weeks to reach a point where I am (fairly) happy with the images.
While the assignment brief asked for eight photographs to be taken of the same subject matter I took a bit of creative license and used a number of pumpkins in some of the photographs, trying to present the different subject qualities in slightly different compositions.
The exercise and assignment instructions encouraged me to experiment with techniques that were new to me such as backlighting to silhouette and rim lighting. While I did find the exposure for these shots tricky to master, I found the results to be worth the frustration and will use these techniques again, particularly to reveal a subject’s shape. Light painting, Colour 2 (see above) , is also an example of me experimenting with a new technique.
Reflection, research, critical thinking.
My learning log is the primary location where I reflect on my work, research and thoughts. I have also started to develop a more informal off-line electronic notebook. The benefits of this seem to be that I can cut and paste interesting articles and web links, however the downside of this is that it is I seem to be using this more as a way of collating information rather than for reflecting on its contents. While the core texts are influencing my thinking I am also finding that questions and ideas arise from magazines, websites and photography groups I follow on Twitter. I know from experience that my ‘informal’ reflection attempts can quickly veer off topic so perhaps I can find a way of adding ‘post-it’ style notes to each article in order to be concise?
As the concept of photographic light was very new to me I found that I had to undertake quite a bit of reading in order to support the exercises in this chapter. I have referenced this reading throughout, so my thinking can be sourced and I can refer back with ease should I need to.
I have been fortunate enough to be able to attend three different photography exhibitions this autumn, Rawiya, She Who Tells a Story, Jung Lee and Nestled in Nature and I have written about these in my learning log. These exhibitions were very different visually and in the messages they wanted to deliver. This was interesting as it helped widen the scope of photographic styles and intentions I have viewed such as reportage, historical record, nature and philosphical.
I also had the opportunity to attend a (free!) talk on the History of Photography. What I found especially of interest was the original daguerreotypes and stereograph that the presenter shared with the audience. While I had read about these early photographic mediums in books, holding them in my hand and looking at them first-hand seemed to strengthen my understanding of how detailed the early photographic processes were.
Narrative and illustration next…
Freeman, M. (2012) Light & Lighting. Lewes: ILEX
Hunter, F., Biver, S. and Fuqua, P. (2012) Light, Science and Magic. (4th ed.) Waltham: Focal Press
Präkel, D. (2007) Lighting. Lausanne: AVA