Category Archives: Part 4- Light

Cloudy weather and rain

Cloudy weather and rain


This exercise has arrived at a tricky time of year. While the worst of the summer heat and humidity are behind us for 2013 (fingers crossed) the temperatures are still in the high 30s Celsius. In terms of cloud and rain, we get an odd cloud in the sky at this time of year this, however is the exception rather than the rule. Rain as you may imagine is non-existent in the summer months.

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 12.59.06 PM

This screen shot taken from shows the average weather conditions, noting that typically if it were to rain this would be more liable to occur in December, January and February.

Taking all of this into consideration I have decided to adapt this exercise to better fit the available weather conditions and undertake further reading on the aspects that I am unable to practically carry out at this time.

The exercise is outlined in three parts.

Part OneSunlight v’s Cloud

The first which asks that I photograph the same view in both sunlight and under the cover of clouds with 2 or 3 different subjects with the WB set to daylight. As I can’t carry out this exercise myself at this time, I have decided to read more on the topic including a selection of TAoP student’s blogs to find out what they concluded from this exercise.

Sunlight has the benefit of immediately brightening a scene, although it can result in blown highlight in certain subjects. It also can result in hard shadows, which can distract from the subject in a photograph. However, Freeman (2009, p71) notes that shooting in sunlight can produce some interesting shots, particularly with side lighting as this can add depth and emphasis the texture of objects.

Cloud cover acts as a diffuser and scatters the sun’s light rays, causing them to strike the subject from many angles. This makes it a soft light which has the benefit of softening shadows (Hunter et al, 2012, p21). Freeman (2009, p88) notes that clouds can soften high contrast scenes while retaining soft shadows, which can still providing modeling effects. The colour of light that cloud cover produces can appear slightly bluer than a sunlight shot.

Sunlit scene, 22mm, f/4.8, 1/2000s, ISO 100

Sunlit scene, 22mm, f/4.8, 1/2000s, ISO 100

Cloudy, 42mm, f/5.3, 1/750s, IS) 100

Cloudy, 42mm, f/5.3, 1/750s, ISO 100

While not taken specifically for this exercise, I took these two shots while on a trip to Glasgow. The images show the same scene, albeit from a slightly different angle, on a bright sunny day and again on a grey overcast day. Both were taken at a similar time of day, late afternoon when the light was coming from the right hand side.

As can be expected the photograph shot in sunshine appears brighter than the cloudy scene, which appears slightly bluer. In the sunlit scene the sun has also increased the contrast by creating areas of shadow and highlight on the fountain.

In the cloudy scene, the shaded areas, such as the inside of the fountain wall have softer shadows than the sunny scene, but it still retains its sense of depth.

Part Two- Overcast day

The second part of this exercise asks that I take three photographs outdoors, on an overcast day that makes good use of the enveloping shadowless light.

As I cannot be sure when we are next going to have an overcast day I have selected three images from photo archives, which were taken under these conditions.

1. Signpost

1. Signpost 38mm, f/4, 1/640s, ISO 100

1. Signpost
38mm, f/4, 1/640s, ISO 100

This image shows a wooden signpost pointing to Campsie Glen, near Glasgow. The wood is weathered and covered with moss. The thick cloud has diffused the light making any shadows soft. Freeman (2009, p88) writes that diffused, or ‘soft’ light can soften a high contrast scene making shadow areas less dense. In this case the, lighter shadows have allowed the details in the texture of the wood to be seen. I also liked in this scene how the heavy grey clouds in the background suggest rain and dampness, which relates to the moss growing on the wood.

2. Boats on Lake Zürich

2. Boats 55mm, f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 100

2. Boats
55mm, f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 100

I took this photograph last year on a trip to Switzerland. Had the sun been shining brightly there could have been very bright highlight on the water that could have made the image tricky to expose. Shadows are still present on the underside of the boats that gives a modeling effect. However, the shadows are not dense meaning that the colours of the boats can still be seen. This image does have a blue look to it that is often seen in light from a clouded sun. I did consider adjusting the WB in PSE11 from daylight to cloud to counteract this but decided against it, as I liked how the blue ran throughout the composition, linking to the colours in the boats.

3. Stone stairway

steps cloudy WB

Stone stairway
32mm, f/4.8, 1/90s, ISO 100

Again, thick cloud has diffused the light. This has produced an image with a lower dynamic range between highlights and shadows allowing for better exposure. The shadows are soft but still allow some depth to be perceived by the viewer. This image was taken with a cloudy WB setting that has off set some of the blue caused by the cloud cover and ‘warmed ‘ up the colour of the stone.  

4.Lake Como

lake como

Lake Como
30mm, f/14, 1/200s, ISO 100

The light in this image of Lake Como is diffused by early morning haze. Freeman (2007, p56) notes that atmospheric haze acts as a filter, reducing contrast in distant parts of a scene and lightening their tone. Scenes, such as the one above, appear deeper than they are due to strong aerial perspective. There is little shadow in this photograph except for on the back of the house, where it is soft and details are still visible. 

Part Three- Rain

The third part of this exercise asks that I take a photograph of rainy conditions. As the odds are that it won’t rain here for several more months, I decided to experiment with photographing subjects that convey the idea of rain rather than actual rain.

I toyed with several ideas involving rain themed subjects such as umbrellas and Wellington boots before tackling the two subjects below.

As rain is linked to life and growth I wanted to show raindrops on a plant leaf, however without a macro lens I couldn’t seem to get quite close enough to do so. I decided to take a wider view of a plant, in this case a small grass-like plant I have at home. I set the camera on a tripod in the shade of my balcony. As it was approaching twilight I attached a shutter release cable and raised the camera’s ISO to 400. I misted the plant with water before shooting it from different angles and with various backgrounds.

1. Rain

1. 'Rain' on plant 55mm, f/5.6, 1.5s, ISO 400

1. ‘Rain’ on plant
55mm, f/5.6, 1.5s, ISO 400

The side lighting on this shot has illuminated the droplets of water on the grass making them stand out well against the dark background. The shallow depth of fieldhas made them the focal point of the shot while giving some depth to the image. Arguably, the highlight where the light hits the flowerpot is a little too much.

I also liked the green/orange colour contrast of the composition. However, it was only in post production that I realised that a section of another plant is visible in the bottom right hand corner of the frame, which is slightly distracting.

2. Rain

1. Rain on plant  55mm, f/5.6, 0.7s, ISO 400

2. ‘Rain’ on plant
55mm, f/5.6, 0.7s, ISO 400

The slightly different angle of view in image 2 has simplified the background making the blades of grass and droplets the focus of attention. The flowerpot looks shiny and wet, which also adds to the idea of rain.

3. Rain

raindrops 1

3. Raindrops
155mm, f/4.9, 1/60s, ISO 400

I also wanted to set up something that would look like a puddle where I could experiment with reflections and ‘raindrops’. I filled a shallow black dish with some water and put it on my balcony. I positioned it underneath a plant in order to show some of the leaves reflected in the water alongside some reflections of the light. I also added some leaves to develop the context.

I set the camera on a tripod with the shutter release cable attached and sprayed the plant with water waiting for the drops to hit the water before pressing the shutter. I persisted with this for quite sometime before I realised that my reaction time was too slow. I then changed the shutter release from single to continuous release that was a more successful approach. This let me capture the concentric circles that the drips caused as they landed in the ‘puddle’.

4. Rain

The focal point in the previous shot was on the leaves, which, with the shallow depth of field, gave the concentric circles a slightly out-of-focus look. For this shot I attempted to place the focus on a circle caused by the drips. It took me quite some time to achieve this even working with the shutter release cable, continuous release mode and a shutter speed of 1/90s. I felt as though my perseverance paid off with this shot that has captured the droplet hitting the water.

With hindsight, I think the shot could be improved further by repeating this exercise with brighter lighting conditions and a faster shutter speed to freeze the action. In addition, a wider depth of field would sharpen the image across the whole frame.

4. Rain 155mm, f/4.9, 1/90s, IOS 400

4. Raindrops
155mm, f/4.9, 1/90s, IOS 400


I am pleased that I have been able to work through the tasks within this exercise, albeit with some adaptations to acknowledge the climate in my current location. When we do experience an overcast day in Dubai it is both a novelty and a relief so to realise the ways that this weather can be useful for shooting is welcome knowledge.

Having said that, I would like to revisit the part one of the exercise to see first hand the difference in sun vs. cloud shooting and hope to do this at a later date. The exercise has also been useful in getting my mind to consider the topic of rain photographs as I know that this is a something to think about for part five of TAoP.

Freeman, M. (2007) The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes: ILEX

Freeman, M. (2009) The Photographer’s Field Guide. Lewes: ILEX

Hunter, F., Biver, S. and Fuqua, P. (2012) Light, Science and Magic. 4th ed. Waltham: Focal Press

Variety with a low sun


As was demonstrated in the last exercise, Light throughout the day, the light a few hours after sunrise and before sunset provided interesting results. This exercise also aims to further highlight the advantages of shooting when the sun is low.

The exercise asks for examples of four very different types of lighting using a low sun; frontal lighting, side lighting, back lighting and edge lighting.

Frontal lighting

Hunter et al (2012, p94) describe front lighting as light coming from the direction of the camera, which lights the front of the subject. They continue by noting that front lighting shows the least possible depth as the visible part if the subject is highlighted while the shadow falls behind the subject where the camera cannot see it. However, the perceived lack of depth can be useful as this minimizes skin textures in front-lit portraits for more flattering results.

I took these photographs outdoors, about 1 hour before sunset. I used daylight WB throughout.

The immediate problem I encountered when attempting to photograph with the sun immediately behind me was the shadow my body was casting over the scene. I repositioned the subjects and myself a few times before I achieved an angle, which overcame this.

1. Frontal lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 100

1. Frontal lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 100

For this image the subject is a decorative pear, I had in an arrangement at home. The shadow from the pear is directly behind it and the resulting perspective appears flat and two-dimensional. Freeman (2009, p80) notes that rather that relying on texture or perspective, successful frontal lit objects should have a strong colour and tone, and/or an interesting outline form. While the pear in this image does have an interesting outline shape it’s colour is similar to the backdrop making it difficult to separate subject and background.

2. Frontal lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/1500, ISO 100

2. Frontal lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/1500, ISO 100

The next image is also front lit. Again, the shadow is directly behind the subject, an angel ornament. While there is still very little depth to note I think this image is more successful than the first, probably due to the fact the differing colours make the objects shape stand out from the background.

Side lighting

Side lighting is, somewhat unsurprisingly, when the light is on one side of the subject. Hunter et al (2012, p95) note that side lighting can be useful in enhancing the perception of depth as it provided both highlight and shadow.

Image 1 shows the sun hitting the pear from the left hand side. This has well lit the left hand side while the right side is in shade. The highlights and shadow have helped reveal some of the pear’s form and make it appear more three-dimensional. The shadow that has been cast by the pear also helps to create a sense of depth, however, it is a ‘hard’ shadow, which ‘arguably’ distracts from the subject. Hunter et al (2012, p21) suggest that obtrusive shadows can be softened. In this case, perhaps by shooting on a day with some cloud coverage?

1. Side lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/750s, ISO 100

1. Side lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/750s, ISO 100

Image 2 is also side lit from the left, placing the right side of the angel in shadow. This, again, has helped to reveal some of the form. A hard shadow has also been cast, though, in this image it seems less distracting than the first, possibly due to the photograph’s vertical composition.

2. Side lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

2. Side lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

Back lighting

Back lighting sees the photographer shooting towards the light. Freeman (2009, p84) notes that the best-known example of the a backlit shot is the silhouette with the subject placed directly in front of the sun, which is the set up I used here.

It took several attempts and a lot of camera adjustments to capture these shots. The first issue was that the brightness of the scene left me unable to read information from inside the viewfinder, such as the exposure indicator while the second was achieving an exposure which didn’t result in clipping. I experimented with exposure bracketing and managed to take the shots. The silhouettes clearly show the outline shape of both subjects.

2. Back lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/1500s, ISO 100

1. Back lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/1500s, ISO 100

2. Back lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/4000s, ISO 100

2. Back lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/4000s, ISO 100

Edge Lighting

Edge lighting and rim lighting are both examples of backlighting that involve capturing the brightly lit edges of a subject (Freeman, 2009, p85). You are shooting towards the sun, but with the sun outside the edges of the frame. The light then hits the edges of the subject producing a bright, highlight outline.

I attempted this with the pear but the results were more akin to side lighting than edge lighting as can be seen below.

1. Edge lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/180s, ISO 100

1. Edge lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/180s, ISO 100

Freeman (2009, p86) suggests that edge lighting is usually most effective when shown against a fairly dark background; therefore I composed a photograph of the angel ornament with part of the background consisting of dark foliage. Against the dark background the edge lighting can be seen clearly whereas it is unnoticeable against the bright sky.

2. Edge lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 100

2. Edge lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 100


This has been an interesting exercise that has demonstrated how slight changes in where the light strikes the subject can produce very different results. It has also helped to illustrate the ways in which lighting can influence the perception of depth in a photograph as well as emphasising a subject’s shape and form.

Freeman, M. (2009) The Photographer’s Field Guide. Lewes: ILEX

Hunter, F., Biver, S.,Fuqua, P. (2012) Light, Science and Magic, An Introduction to Photographic Lighting (4th edition) Waltham: Focal Press

Light through the day

Light through the day


Präkel (2007, p57) notes that throughout the day, the colour and quality of light changes, as does the angle and direction of light. These factors are dependent on the position of the sun.

This exercise looks the way that the sun moves throughout the day and the subsequent effect this has on the quality of light.

The instructions are as follows;

  • Shoot on a sunny day
  • Find a landscape location with a definite subject that will catch the sunlight
  • The location should be convenient to reach as you will have to return to the same spot
  • Photograph the scene from sunrise to sunset taking at least one photograph per hour, keeping the composition constant.
  • Use a tripod and cable release to allow you to set up the composition and then concentrate on the lighting.

I had several scenes in mind for this exercise, however as the outdoor temperatures in Dubai are still above 40°C I opted for a viewpoint close to home, where I could escape the heat and humidity. The scene looks from the Palm Jumeirah across to the skyscrapers of Dubai Marina. While scouting out the scene I noted that the sun strikes the towers from different angles during the day.

Sunrise was to be at just after 6am so I arrived a little early and set the camera upon a tripod and attached the cable release. I then composed the photograph and waited for the sun to make its appearance. All photographs were taken with a 55mm-300mm telephoto lens, an aperture of f/22 and in Manual mode. I kept the WB setting on daylight unless otherwise mentioned and adjusted the ISO throughout the day.


06:06am 65mm, f/22, 1/2s, ISO 200

65mm, f/22, 1/2s, ISO 200

6am 2

65mm, f/22, 1/3s, ISO 200

06:22am 62mm, f/22, 1/10s, ISO 200

62mm, f/22, 1/10s, ISO 200

Präkel (2007, p61) notes that just before the sun rises, the light is richly red towards the sun and a violet-blue away from it. This can be seen to some extent in the first photograph, which shows the buildings and sky bathed in blue light. Präkel continues, by noting that the light from the rising sun is pink just before it rises and then becomes a golden-yellow as the sun breaks over the horizon. This is evident in the 06:22am as the light hits the buildings on their left hand side and they take on a pink/orange glow. Präkel (2007, p21) notes that the typical colour temperature of light at sunrise is 3100K.

I found it extremely interesting to note the rate at which the light changed at this time of day, moving from blue to pink/orange over the space of just 16 minutes and also to note the effect this had on the recommended shutter speed.


07:23am 65mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 200

65mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 200

65mm, f/22, 1/60s, ISO 100

65mm, f/22, 1/60s, ISO 100

09:20am 62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

10:32am 62mm, f/22, 1/90, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/90, ISO 100

At 07:23am the light is becoming paler and leaning more towards yellow. From here until 10:32am the atmospheric haze caused by heat and humidity that is prevalent in Dubai throughout the summer months descends and changes the light again to a blue colour. The rising sun casts some shadows on the central tower and on the tallest tower on the right hand side of the frame. As the sun gets higher we can see these shadows decrease then eventually disappear.

Präkel (2007, p21) notes that the typical colour temperature of light at 2 hours after sunrise is 4000K, higher than sunrise at 3100K. This is interesting, as the colour of light in the image at 08:27am could be perceived, through colour associations, to be cooler.


11:33am 62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

12.28pm 62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

13:31pm 62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

14:30pm 62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

This is when the sky is at its highest point in the sky and temperatures are at their peak. Freeman (2009, p68) notes that the middle of the day is a time that many photographers consider to have the least appealing light. Although, he does note that it can produce crisp clear images with clearly defined shapes and bright colours, particularly when the air is clear. Unfortunately this was not the case here. The atmospheric haze was thick which has made the light appear grey/white. The high sun has meant that there are no discernible shadows or highlights making the images appear very flat. Präkel (2007, p21) describes noon light as white daylight, which has a higher colour temperature than sunrise, measuring 5500K.


15:32pm 58mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

58mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

16:35pm 62mm, f/22, 1/60s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/60s, ISO 100

At 15:30pm the in-camera exposure meter still suggested a 1/90s shutter speed, however I can now see the light becoming a little more yellow as the sun hits the front of the buildings. This has increased by 16:35pm and has become more orange. The left hand side of the buildings are now in shadow. The angle of the sun has also illuminated more of the foliage in the foreground than in previous photographs

17:38pm 62mm, f/22, 1/20, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/20, ISO 100

17:43pm 62mm, f/22, 1/30s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/30s, ISO 100

Inconveniently, a delivery truck had parked in front of the scene at this time and showed no signs of moving soon as the workers began unloading and assembling furniture. I decided to continue with the exercise.

The light is now more of a peachy/orange tone and it can be seen clearly striking the front side of the towers. In doing so, it leaves the leaves one side in shade and this help to reveal the form of the towers. The lamppost on the right hand side of the frame was shown as a silhouette in previous shots but now the angle of the light has help to reveal some of it’s form too. The colour temperature of light an hour prior to sunset measures approximately 3800K, cooler than the white light of midday.

Sunset and beyond

18:28pm 62mm, f/22, 1/10s, ISO 400

62mm, f/22, 1/10s, ISO 400

18:33pm 62mm, f/22, 1/8s, ISO 400

62mm, f/22, 1/8s, ISO 400

18:50pm 62mm, f/22, 1.5s, ISO 400

62mm, f/22, 1.5s, ISO 400

19:01pm 62mm, f/22, 10s, ISO 400

62mm, f/22, 10s, ISO 400

The sunset was due to occur at 18:38pm and as the light was fading quickly I upped the ISO to 400. However even though I was aware of the failing light I was still surprised to see how dark this scene looks in the 18:28pm photograph. I recall the scene appearing much lighter, possibly as my eyes were becoming accustomed to the available light?

As the sun is disappearing, the light appears very blue. This is because the blue and violet wavelengths of light are shorter at this time and get scattered more widely away from the sun.

By 18:50pm the light levels were very low so I opened the camera flash and adjusted the WB to flash. Even in doing so, the camera still required a shutter speed of 1.5s. The flash WB has added a violet tinge to the image.

Eleven minutes later the shutter speed required was 10s, making me very grateful for the tripod and shutter release cable. The residual daylight is all but gone and the towers have begun to be lit, adding some interest to the image. Lights from a nearby building have lit the foliage in the foreground giving it a red tint. The haze remains and this coupled with the raised ISO and low light gives the image a very noisy appearance.


Overall, I was little disappointed with the photographs from this exercise because of the haze, which reduced details and rendered the images a little soft.

However, the point of the exercise was to observe how the sun moved through the day and note the effect his has on light and I feel that there were some fairly notable differences throughout the day. While reflecting on the colour of the light I consciously  considered not only how a colour appearance and its temperature associations but also of how it could be described in Kelvin.

Sunrise, just after sunrise and in the hour prior to sunset brought yellows, pinks and oranges to the scene, which added colour, interest and mood to the images. The angle of the sun in the early morning shots and later afternoon produced some nice shadows, which help show the form of the buildings.

The photographs taken at midday were, in my opinion, the least appealing as they lacked contrast, detail and appeared very 2-dimensional. The white light of midday, coupled with the haze, has washed much of the colour from the scene.

It is easy to see that sunrise, sunset and late afternoon provided the lighting conditions with the most favourable outcomes, albeit with the narrowest window of opportunity. This is information that I can use to my favour when planning my shooting schedule.

This exercise has also made me more aware of how quickly the light changes as the beginning and the end of the day. Even just a few minutes influenced the exposure settings.

I would like to repeat this exercise later in the year, when the weather is cooler and when the haze has gone and the air is clearer

Judging colour temperature 2

Judging colour temperature 2


Part 2 of this exercise looks at White Balance (WB). In the glossary of his 2007 book, Exposure, Präkel defines WB as:

“Adjusting for the colour temperature of the illuminating light, so white and neutral colours appear truly neutral and do not show a colour cast”.

The human eye quickly adapts to different light and will perceive things as ‘white’ that it knows to be white. However, digital cameras process light temperature and colour differently. Most digital cameras do this through an inbuilt WB operating system, which allows the camera’s settings to be adjusted to respond to the colour temperature of the light to aid the reproduction of more accurate colours. For example, a cloudy day has a high colour temperature that can emit a bluish colour cast. Opting to use the Cloudy WB preset compensates for this by adding perceived warmth to the image.

The camera I use, a Nikon D5100, has eight preset white balance options, which include Auto WB, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade and Flash. It also has a Custom WB option, which I have not yet experimented with.

Judging colour temperature 2

This exercise requires that I decide what colour temperature correction a scene may require, if any. The instructions are as follows;

  • Take a similar situation to the last one and shoot the same three kinds of pictures.
  • However, you should vary the camera’s WB settings by taking one at Daylight/Sunlight WB setting, another at the Shade WB setting and the third in Auto WB.
  • Compare the three versions and note differences and preferences of WB settings

I used the same setting as the previous exercise, an area at the front of my building, using three wise monkeys as my subject. I shot at midday in the sun, midday in the shade and late in the afternoon when the sun was close to the horizon.

1. Midday light

Midday, Daylight WB

Midday, Daylight WB

midday, shade WB

Midday, Shade WB

Midday, Auto WB

Midday, Auto WB

Daylight WB has managed quite well with image 1 as gives the image some warmth without bleaching out the shadows. Shade WB has added an orange/yellow colour cast, which looks unnatural. It did, however bring out more of the red tones in the monkeys and make the details in the shadows more prominent. Auto WB has cooled the image by making the paving stones a pale blue/grey and by darkening the shadow areas on the monkeys.

Overall, I think the Daylight WB did a better job of capturing this scene as it did not add any extra coolness or warmth to the image and captured the colours closest to what they actually were.

2. Midday shade

Midday shade, daylight WB

Midday shade, daylight WB

Midday Shade, Shade WB

Midday Shade, Shade WB

Midday shade, AUto WB

Midday shade, AUto WB

I placed the monkeys in the midday shade, and took the three shots adjusting the WB as I went. The daylight WB has not coped as well here as with the first situation and the image has taken on a slight pinkish cast. As shaded areas generally produce cooler looking pictures, the Shade WB has ‘warmed’ up the image with a yellow/orange glow, which is a little bit too warm for my taste. The Auto WB is the version I prefer as it while it has given the grey paving stones a slight bluish colour cast, it does not look unnatural.

3. Sun close to the horizon

Sun near the horizon, Daylight WB

Sun near the horizon, Daylight WB

Sun near the horizon, Shade WB

Sun near the horizon, Shade WB

Sun near the horizon, Auto WB

Sun near the horizon, Auto WB

I took these photographs ½ an hour before the sun was due to set. The Daylight WB has worked well with the orange/yellow low colour temperature light and gives the image perceived warmth. Shade WB has compensated for the blue tones that shaded areas usually hold by adding a strong orange hue to the image. I am undecided as to whether it is too orange or if adds to idea of a setting sun? Auto WB has cooled the feeling of the image and rendered the grey paving stone and the shadows a grey/blue hue. I think a setting somewhere between Daylight WB and Shade WB would be a good WB setting for this scene. I could perhaps achieve this by experimenting with the temperature and tint sliders in the camera RAW processing option in Photoshop Elements 11?


When taking photographs I do adjust the WB settings to match the conditions I am shooting in. However, I now realise that I was doing this routinely with little thought as to how this affects the resulting photographs or how it relates to the lighting conditions. This exercise had also illustrated quite well that lighting conditions can be unpredictable and that other WB settings other that the obvious may actually give more pleasing results. This is something I intend to give more thought to and experiment with in-camera.

Präkel, D. (2007) Basics Photography: Exposure. Lausanne: AVA

Judging colour temperature 1

Judging Colour Temperature 1


This is the first exercise in the Project: The Colour of Light. The project begins by describing what light is, from a scientific perspective.

Light, like radio waves, x-rays and radar is a type of energy called electromagnetic radiation. Radiation is defined by wavelengths, which vary in length of frequency, from high to low. The majority of the wavelengths on the Electromagnetic Spectrum are invisible to the human eye, such as x-rays (high frequency, short wavelengths) and radio and TV (low-frequency, long wavelengths) (Präkel, 2007, p12).

The light that we can see concerns only a small part of the spectrum. It is seen as the colour of the rainbow. First as a deep red and then as the wavelengths continue to reduce in length, yellow, green, blue and violet can be seen. After violet the radiation becomes invisible as UV light.

This is illustrated in the diagram below.

Our eyes combine the six colours to see ‘white light’. This colourless, ‘white light’ is used to describe standard sunlight in the middle of the day and is measured at a colour temperature of 5500K.

 Colour temperature measures the ‘whiteness’ of light and is measured in kelvin, shown as K. (Präkel, 2007, p20). This scale directly relates to the idea of the colour change seen when heating an object. Thus I found it interesting to note that red would have a lower colour temperature than orange, blue or white. Slightly confusing, as the last chapter in TAoP looked at red and orange as being hot colours and blues as cool. However, it is important to distinguish between colour associations and the measurement of colour temperature.

 Light stops being white and becomes a colour when some part of the spectrum is missing. This happens because the atmospheric particles scatter some of the light wavelengths, particularly at sunrise and sunset. The shorter wavelengths, blue, get scattered more easily and makes the sky appear blue. The longer wavelength colours do not scatter so easily, so remain visible. This, weather permitting, can result in a yellow, orange and red sunset.

Judging colour temperature 1

 Rather unsurprisingly, the temperature of light changes throughout the day. Therefore this exercise asks us to look as these variables when learning to gauge colour temperature. The instructions for the exercise were as follows:

  • Select a subject that can be moved around, that does not have a strong colour.
  • Select a day with clear weather.
  • Take three photographs, one in full sunlight during the middle of the day, one in shade during the middle of the day and one in sunlight when the sun is close to the horizon.
  • Ensure the camera’s WB is set to daylight.
  • Compare the ‘in the shade’ and ‘when the sun is close to the horizon’ photographs with the photograph taken in full sunlight in the middle of the day and make notes.

 I chose a small, off-white Buddha statue I had at home for a subject and selected a position in front of my building. It was a clear, cloudless day and extremely hot. I took three photographs as directed with daylight WB. I opted for RAW format.

1.midday light 85mm, f/5.6, 1/5000, ISO 100

1.midday light
85mm, f/5.6, 1/5000, ISO 100

The first shot was taken at 11:30am when the sun was high and the temperature was 42°C. Full midday sun is described as white or colourless and in this image it has had the effect of bleaching out the statue and surrounding brick work. The colours of the background are pale and uninteresting. The overhead sun has also resulted in highlight spots on the Buddha’s head shoulders and stomach.

65mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO 100
2. midday shade, 65mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO 100

The second photograph was taken at 11:31am with the statue placed in the shade. Shade has a higher colour temperature than ‘white’ day light and contains more blue light. This can be seen in the colour of the stone work and also to a lesser degree on the statue.

50mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

3. Sun close to the horizon, 50mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

The third photograph was taken at 18:04pm, half an hour before sunset. The light has given the image a yellow/orange tone. While the setting sun has a cool colour temperature it, somewhat ironically, appears warmer to look at. Of the three images, this is my favourite as the low side lighting has lit the Buddha well, while casting an interesting shadow which helps to balance out the composition.


This exercise has helped to show that the time of day has a strong effect on the colour of light, which can be seen in both the statue and the surrounding brickwork.

Although I feel as though I need more experience in being able to judge the colour of light reliably, I do feel that reading more about the scientific explanations of what light is and how it behaves has been useful. I knew that early morning and early evening are considered to be the ‘golden’ time for photography but previously didn’t understand it was due to both the temperature of the light as well as the perceived associations with temperature.

This has given me a good foundation to build upon when undertaking the next exercises on Light and the subsequent assignment.

Präkel, D. (2007) Basic Photography: Lighting. Lausanne: AVA

Higher and lower sensitivity

Higher and lower sensitivity

ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization, a body that sets standards for film speeds and matching digital sensitivity (Präkel, 2009). This exercise looks at the effects of raising the ISO in your camera.  It asks for scenes to be shot at normal sensitivity, and then reshot at a higher sensitivity. We are asked to note if this made shooting easier and the overall effect on the image.

Raising the ISO increases a camera’s sensitivity to light. However, I was not fully aware of the degree to which the sensitivity is affected. The course notes state that by increasing the ISO from 100 to ISO 400, the camera becomes four times more sensitive to light, offering the option of using an aperture four times smaller or a shutter speed four times faster.

The camera I work with, a Nikon D5100, has an ISO range of ISO 100-6400. An ISO of 100-200 is, generally, considered to be an appropriate ISO for a bright, sunny day and this is what I use when taking photographs outdoors. When taking photographs indoors and under low light I will raise the ISO slightly, but never over 800 as I have tried to avoid the appearance of noise.  In the glossary Präkel (2009) describes noise as ‘out of place pixels that break up the smooth tones in a digital image’.  It adds a grainy appearance to an image and is common in digital photography with higher sensitivity settings.

Image 1

 I shot this scene of the River Kelvin in Glasgow, first with ISO 100 then again with ISO 1000.

36mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

1. 36mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

29mm, f/5.6, 1/4000s, ISO 1000

29mm, f/5.6, 1/4000s, ISO 1000

I shot this scene of the River Kelvin in Glasgow, first with ISO 100 then again with ISO 1000 in Manual Mode, keeping the aperture constant. As it was a breezy day the weather changed frequently, alternating between overcast and bright.

The difference in the shutter speed recommended by my in-camera exposure meter was very noticeable, 1/500s at ISO 100 and 1/4000s at ISO 1000. Despite the shutter speed increasing the 2nd image is much brighter and the colour appear bleached. Perhaps, because at this point the day was relatively bright which negated the need for an increased ISO.

While noise cannot be detected by the eye at this size of print, I zoomed into a section of each image at 200% to note if it would be visible if the photograph was printed or displayed in a larger format.

ISO 100

ISO 100

ISO 1000

ISO 1000

The difference in the degree of noise between ISO 100 and IS0 1000 is very noticeable; with the latter appear very grainy and speckled.

Image 2

I repeated the exercise with a photograph of a memorial statue in Kelvingrove Park. Increasing the ISO from 100 to 1000 meant that the in camera recommended shutter speed was much faster. The fast shutter speed allowed the movement of the girl on the bike on the bottom right of the frame and the three people on the left of the frame to be captured sharply.

50mm, F/5.6, 1/350s, ISO 100

50mm, F/5.6, 1/350s, ISO 100

ISO 1000

50mm, f/5.6, 1/4000s, ISO 1000

I, again, examined the images at a 200% zoom to look for noise and noted that this was far more evident at the higher ISO sensitivity.

ISO 1000

ISO 1000

ISO 100

ISO 100

Image 3

When I took image 3 the sky had become very grey and overcast. I took this photograph of a church sitting beside a fairly busy road, first at ISO 100 and then at ISO 1000.

26mm, f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 100

26mm, f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 100

26mm, f/5.6, 1/2000s, ISO 1000

26mm, f/5.6, 1/2000s, ISO 1000

ISO 100 and a 1/125s shutter speed captures the movement of the car as slightly blurred, whereas the increased sensitivity setting of ISO 1000 allows a faster shutter speed, 1/2000s, to be used which captures a car’s movement sharply. However, the increased ISO has resulted in some noise, which seems to lessen the contrast and make the black areas appear grey and grainy.

ISO 100

ISO 100

ISO 1000

ISO 1000

Image 4

As the noise appears to be more noticeable on black areas in an image I selected a dark coloured subject, this statue erected in memory of the Glasgow cartoonist Bud Neill. The sky was very grey and overcast.

I took four shots with the ISO increasing from 100, to 1000, to 2000 and finally at 6400. The increasing ISO allowed faster shutter speeds to be selected, however at ISO 6400 noise is visible, even at this small size of image adding resulting in a loss of detail and contrast. This was even more noticeable at 66.6% zoom.

ISO 100

ISO 100

ISO 1000

ISO 1000

ISO 2000

ISO 2000

ISO 6400

ISO 6400

ISO 6400 at 66.6%

ISO 6400 at 66.6%

Image 5

This image shows the rear side of a tenement block in Glasgow’s West End. It was taken on a dull, wet evening with low light. I opted for an aperture of f/16 to retain good depth of field and took four shots with ISO settings of ISO 100, ISO 1000, ISO 2000 and ISO 6400, adjusting the shutter speed as suggested by the in-camera exposure meter.

ISO 100

ISO 100

ISO 1000

ISO 1000

ISO 2000

ISO 2000

ISO 6400

ISO 6400

At ISO 100 the camera recommended a shutter speed of 0.3s. This shutter speed is too slow for a photograph taken hand held in this level of light and the results are a little soft.

ISO 100

ISO 100

ISO 6400

ISO 6400

Raising the ISO has allowed the shutter speed to become much faster ensuring a sharper shot.  However, again noise is becoming visible as the sensitivity increases, particularly on the black of the drainpipe as can be seen in the screen shot of ISO 6400 above.


This has been an interesting exercise as it has forced me out my comfort zone by prompting me to experiment with higher ISO sensitivities. The results have shown that as raising ISO makes the camera more sensitive to light it provides the advantage of allowing smaller apertures and faster shutter speeds to be selected. Still the trade off seems to be noise in the image, particularly when it is displayed or printed in a larger size and/or when the ISO is raised very high.  Having said that, I have opted to experiment with particularly high ISO sensitivities and now wonder if lower ISO’s such as 400, 640 or 800 would offer a more acceptable level of noise? This is something I will note when taking future photographs.

This exercise has illustrated that raising the ISO offers a photographer an increased number of creative options and is a useful additional to a toolkit.

  • Präkel, D. (2009) Basics Photography: Exposure. Lausanne: AVA Publishing SA

Measuring exposure

Measuring exposure

What is exposure?

Präkel (2009) defines exposure as the ‘combination of intensity and duration of light used to allow the right amount of light to reach film or sensor to record full tonal range’. He also raises the question, ‘what is good exposure?’ (2009, p20). He advises that good exposure can be the exposure that is technically correct, showing detail in the darkest shadows and detail in the brightest highlights. However, he notes that good exposure can also be the exposure that feels right to the photographer and look right in the final print.

The first exercise in Part Four-Light, deals with measuring and controlling exposure. 

The exercise comprises two parts as follows-

Part One- Produce four and six photographs which are deliberately lighter or darker that average, and say why in you written notes.

Part Two- Take five or six different photographs; of any subject, but for each one make five exposures, arranged around what you have measured as the best exposure. Consider if the central exposure is what you wanted and if any of the other exposures are acceptable too.

Part one


This is a photograph of an artificial leaf and flower arrangement against an iron and ceramic tiled fireplace. I used the TTL spot meter to take a reading off the green leaf and this suggested a 1/6s shutter speed alongside an aperture of f/4 and ISO of 100.



However, when I viewed the image on my laptop screen I realised that the detail on the ironwork inside the fireplace was barely visible; therefore I added some shadow fill in post-processing.

Perhaps as the sun was hitting the leaf it would have better to spot meter off the dark green tile or alternatively I could have experiment with a higher ISO?

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 11.35.07 AM

fireplace histogram

On first look it doesn’t strike me as appearing as an overly dark image, however the histogram shows a chart skewed strongly towards the left noting that the image is composed of mainly dark tones.


Because of the range of bright and darker areas in this image I, again, opted for spot metering to gauge the exposure. I metered off the green foliage in the background to set the shutter speed at 1/350s alongside the aperture of f/4.2 and ISO 100. Rather unsurprisingly, the histogram shows the image as being brighter than average with the pixels distributed towards the right side of the graph.

window histogram

window histogram

Ivy on fence-

I spotted this ivy trailing over a neighbours fence and though this would qualify as a subject that is darker than average. With a wide aperture of f/4 and ISO of 100, I measure the exposure of this scene using the matrix metering setting and set the shutter speed to 1/90s. This produced a very dark scene with some blocked shadows. I applied some shadow fill in post processing to recover these.

ivy on fence

ivy on fence

ivy histogram

ivy histogram

Fence post in park-

This photograph was taken in a park on a very bright, sunny day and shows both dark and light areas. I spot metered off of the dark foliage and recomposed to focus on the post.

Fence post in park

Fence post in park

While the histogram shows that the pixels stretch across the shadows, mid-tones and highlights, the bunching of pixels at the right end of the graph show that the highlights are close to being ‘blown-out’.

fence post histogram

fence post histogram

Lion on railings-

A close up view of park railings and background foliage created this ‘dark’ photograph. As the scene was not high-contrast I used matrix-metering to set the exposure at 1/30s, f/4.5 and ISO 100.

Lion's head on railing

Lion’s head on railing

The left skewed histogram shows the pixel distribution in the image is skewed towards darker tones. However, the exposure managed to capture the scene without blocking the shadows.

railing histogram

railing histogram

Part two

This section looks at the way adjusting the exposure will affect an image. The images are JPEGs and have not had their exposure adjusted in post processing.

Image 1– I took these photographs of the Trinity building in Glasgow with the aperture open to f/11 and ISO set to 100. Using matrix metering the TTL exposure meter suggested a shutter speed of 1/250s. I then took at series of 5 shots at ½-stop intervals, one at the recommended exposure, two above and two below. The results are below.

1 stop brighter, 1/90s

+ 1 stop, 1/90s

1/2 stop brighter, 1/125s

+1/2 stop, 1/125s

Suggested exposure, 1/250s

Suggested exposure, 1/250s

1/2 stop darker, 1/350s

– 1/2 stop, 1/350s





1 stop darker, 1/500s

-1 stop, 1/500s




















At + one stop the colours of the stone appear washed out and the sky is a much lighter blue than the scene originally was. The +½ stop brighter exposure seems to have worked out quite well as there is detail in both the shadow and the highlights. At the exposure recommended by my camera the blue of the sky is a better match to the sky in the original scene, however the front of the building is in the shade and looks overly dark.

The darkness increases at both -½ stop and -1 stop resulting in lost details in the shadows.

It would seem that the exposures that worked best for this scene are the in-camera recommended exposure and ½ stop brighter.

Image 2-

I repeated this exercise using these hydrangea as the subject. It was an outdoor scene on a slightly overcast day. With the aperture set to f/5 and ISO 100 the in-camera exposure meter recommended a shutter speed of 1/500. Therefore +1 stop equalled 1/180s, +1/2 stop 1/350s, -1/2 stop 1/750s and -1 stop 1/500s.

+1 stop, 1/180s

+1 stop, 1/180s

+1/2 stop, 1/350s

+1/2 stop, 1/350s









+1 stop renders the image too bright; the detail in the flower petals is lost and the green foliage is very pale. +1/2 stop is a more acceptable exposure, as more detail is visible in the flower petals.

suggested exposure, 1/500s

Suggested exposure, 1/500s

-1/2 stop, 1/750s

-1/2 stop, 1/750s








-1 stop, 1/1000s

-1 stop, 1/1000s










The in-camera recommended exposure works well for the blue of the flowers as of the five exposures; this is the closest match to the original scene. At -1/2 stop the background the overall image is darkened and has a gloomy appearance while at -1 stop the details are lost in the shadows. Of the five images I prefer the 1/500s image, which was the in-camera’s recommended exposure.

Image 3- I spotted this flowering plant on a bright summer’s day, as it seemed to attract a large number of insects, particularly butterflies. The scene varied slightly between each shot as the butterfly moved across the flower. At 55mm, f/5.6 and ISO 100 the shutter speeds were as follows +1 stop 1/125s, +1/2 stop 1/180s, in-camera recommended shutter speed 1/250s, -1/2 stop 1/350s and -1 stop 1/500s.

+ 1stop, 1/125s

+ 1stop, 1/125s

+1/2 stop, 1/180s

+1/2 stop, 1/180s

suggested exposure, 1/250s

suggested exposure, 1/250s

-1/2 stop, 1/350s

-1/2 stop, 1/350

-1 stop, 1/500s

-1 stop, 1/500s
























+1 stop is very bright and this has bleached out the small details in the large flower head, making it appear white. + ½ stop is better and a little more light pink colour can be seen in the flower. The orange of the butterfly is also more saturated. The in-camera recommendation of 1/250s seems to work quite well as the colours are bright and the details in the flower and leaves can be seen.

However, the -1/2 stop exposure has allowed the small details to become even more defined and the colours of the foliage darker and more natural. At -1 stop the shadows increase and the overall image is darker, appearing more like a dull overcast day that a sunny day. In this instance, I feel that both the in-camera and the -1/2 stop settings worked best.

Image 4- I took these photographs of a stone balustrade covered in ivy on a slight cloudy, but still bright day. At 26mm, f/4.2 and ISO 100 the in-camera’s suggested shutter speed was 1/125s.

+1/2 stop, 1/90s

+1/2 stop, 1/90s

+ 1 stop, 1/60s

+ 1 stop, 1/60

suggested exposure, 1/125s

suggested exposure, 1/125s

-1/2 stop, 1/180s

-1/2 stop, 1/180

-1 stop, 1/250s

-1 stop, 1/250s

At +1 stop (1/60s) the scene is clearly overexposed. Details in the leaves and texture in the stone has been lost in the highlights. +1/2 stop (1/90s) is also too bright; the colours are bleached and there is very little contrast. A 1/125s has given the greens a little more saturation, however the image still looks too bright. At -1/2 stop the texture of the stone is becoming more visible and the shape of the individual leaves are becoming more defined. The -1 stop image is actually my preferred exposure of the five as it has more contrast and detail. There are a few small areas that are quite dark however, which made me wonder if adjusting the exposure in increments of 1/3 of a stop and applying a -2/3 stop would have worked even better?

Image 5– This is, again, the Trinity building, Glasgow, from a different angle. At 36mm and ISO 320, I dialed in an aperture of f/11. On hindsight, a lower ISO would probably have worked better as it was a bright, sunny day. The in-camera exposure meter suggested a shutter speed of 1/1000s.

+1 stop, 1/500s

+1 stop, 1/500s

+ 1/2 stop, 1/750s

+ 1/2 stop, 1/750s

suggested exposure,  1/1000s

suggested exposure, 1/1000s

-1/2 stop, 1/1500s

-1/2 stop, 1/1500s

-1stop, 1/2000s

-1stop, 1/2000s










+1 stop equalled a shutter speed of 1/500s, which renders the building a little washed out, and most of the brickwork pattern barely visible. At +1/2 stop the colours are a little warmer, although the brickwork detail is still barely perceptible. At 1/1000s the exposure seems to work well. The sky is a bright blue, brickwork detail (particularly in the tower) can be seen and the image transmits a sense of it being a bright summer’s day. Reducing the exposure by ½ stop to 1/1500s shutter speed also produces good colours, however it also darkened the shadow areas and gives the image a more ‘contrasty’ feel. -1 stop, 1/2000s has increased the contrast throughout the photograph, possibly a little bit more than suits my taste. I consider both the in-camera suggested setting of 1/1000s and the -1/2 stop image to work best for this scene. And again, wondered if adjusting the stop increments to 1/3s and applying a -1/3 stop would have worked have achieved a result somewhere between the two?


The results of this exercise have proven interesting as it illustrated the marked difference that even a slight adjustment in exposure can produce. Differences in colour, texture, details and contrast were all noted. The exercise has also shown me that while the in-camera exposure meter does a pretty good job of suggesting a ‘correct’ exposure, it cannot be blindly relied upon.