Make a Google Images search for ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’, or any ordinary subject such as ‘apple’ or ‘sunset’. Add a screengrab of a representative page to your learning log and note down the similarities you find between the images. Now take a number of your own photographs of the same subject, paying special attention to the ‘Creativity’ criteria at the end of Part One. You might like to make the subject appear ‘incidental’, for instance by using juxtaposition, focus or framing. Or you might begin with the observation of Ernst Haas, or the ‘camera vision’ of Bill Brandt. Add a final image to your learning log, together with a selection of preparatory shots. In your notes describe how your photograph differs from your Google Images source images of the same subject.
When searching for just the term apple you get a multitude of images from the simple apple to Apple Company logo so I have had to refine to search criteria to “an apple”, as you can now see below the search generally pics out a single red apple on very clinical looking white background, some with the odd green leaf but 90% are almost identical in the way the apple is portrayed.
What is an apple? A food source for the animal kingdom, from the time it is picked or falls from the tree it is in the process of decaying.
The images I have taken where more of an idea of what does the poor humble apple go through before we devour it. I used a spot light almost directly above to give the image of old spy movie style of torture as the apple is cut, flayed and dissected before consumption. The torture devices are left strewn around the apple as it goes through it mutilation.
Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form. For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body, rather than a man-made object. Man-made or cultural artefacts can be fascinating to light but they also contain another layer of meaning requiring interpretation by the photographer; this exercise is just about controlling the light to reveal form. You don’t need a studio light for this exercise; a desk lamp or even window light will be fine, although a camera flash that you can use remotely is a useful tool. The only proviso is that you can control the way the light falls on the subject. Take some time to set up the shot. The background for your subject will be crucial. For a smallish object, you can tape a large sheet of paper or card to the wall as an ‘infinity curve’ which you can mask off from the main light source by pieces of card. You don’t need to use a curve if you can manage the ‘horizon line’ effectively – the line where the surface meets background. Taking a high viewpoint will make the surface the background, in which case the surface you choose will be important to the shot. Exposure times will be much longer than you’re used to (unless you’re using flash) and metering and focusing will be challenging. The key to success is to keep it simple. The important thing is to aim for four or five unique shots – either change the viewpoint, the subject or the lighting for each shot. Add the sequence to your learning log. Draw a simple lighting diagram for each of your shots showing the position of the camera, the subject and the direction of the key light and fill. Don’t labour the diagrams; quick sketches with notes will be just as useful as perfect graphics. In your notes try to describe any similarities between the qualities of controlled lighting and the daylight and ambient artificial light shots from Exercises 4.2 and 4.3.
For this exercise I used the flash from an iphone to supply me with the light source. The light source set level to the subject left ugly long shadows and left the subject with a dark more macabre look but still flat. Lifting the light helped reduce the shadows and also gave the subject a little more form but not as much as the last two images which I used two light sources, this gave the best results almost eliminating the shadows.
Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term). The correct white balance setting will be important; this can get tricky –but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour temperatures in the same shot. You can shoot indoors or outside but the light should be ambient rather than camera flash. Add the sequence to your learning log. In your notes try to describe the difference in the quality of light from the daylight shots in Exercise 4.2.
All the images are taken with different light sources halogen, neon, fluorescent, led, standard bulb, candles and headlamps. The first thing I noticed about the ambient light is you can control its source point as well as its intensity depending on the desired effect you require.
In manual mode take a sequence of shots of a subject of your choosing at different times on a single day. It doesn’t matter if the day is overcast or clear but you need a good spread of times from early morning to dusk. You might decide to fix your viewpoint or you might prefer to ‘work into’ your subject, but the important thing is to observe the light, not just photograph it. Add the sequence to your learning log together with a timestamp from the time/date info in the metadata. In your own words, briefly describe the quality of light in each image.
Taking these shots throughout the day I tried to get an idea of how natural light works from behind me and directly in front hence the two sets of photos. Even though the day was completely overcast I was surprised when looking back through the images how much the light actually changed, not just from dark to light and back to dark again but the blue tone from the start of the day slowly warming up to mid day before cooling of again. The camera was set to a constant f1.8 with a prime 50mm lens, the only adjustment I had to make were to the ISO and shutter speed.
Set your camera to any of the auto or semi-auto modes. Photograph a dark tone (such as a black jacket), a mid-tone (the inside of a cereal packet traditionally makes a useful ‘grey card’) and a light tone (such as a sheet of white paper), making sure that the tone fills the viewfinder frame (it’s not necessary to focus). Add the shots to your learning log with quick sketches of the histograms and your observations. You might be surprised to see that the histograms for each of the frames – black, grey and white – are the same. If there’s not much tonal variation within the frame you’ll see a narrow spike at the mid-tone; if there is tonal variation (such as detail) you’ll see a more gentle curve. If you find the tone curve isn’t centered on the mid-tone, make sure that you have your exposure compensation set to zero. You may see an unpleasant colour cast if you’re shooting under artificial light, in which case you can repeat the exercise using your monochrome setting (a light meter is sensitive to brightness, not to colour).
This simple exercise exposes the obvious flaw in calibrating the camera’s light meter to the mid-tone. The meter can’t know that a night scene is dark or a snow scene is light so it averages each exposure around the mid-tone and hopes for the best. But why can’t the camera just measure the light as it is? The reason is that a camera measures reflected light – the light reflected from the subject, not incident light – the light falling on the subject. To measure the incident light you’d have to walk over to the subject and hold an incident light meter (a hand-held meter) pointing back towards the camera, which isn’t always practical. If you did that each of the tones would be exposed correctly because the auto or semi-auto modes wouldn’t try to compensate for the specific brightness of the subject.
Set your camera to manual mode. Now you can see your light meter! The mid-tone exposure is indicated by the ‘0’ on the meter scale with darker or lighter exposures as – or + on either side. Repeat the exercise in manual mode, this time adjusting either your aperture or shutter to place the dark, mid and light tones at their correct positions on the histogram. The light and dark tones shouldn’t fall off either the left or right side of the graph. Add the shots to your learning log with sketches of their histograms and your observations.
Switching to manual mode disconnects the aperture, shutter and ISO so they’re no longer linked. Because they’re no longer reciprocal, you can make adjustments to any one of them without affecting the others.
The above images were taken in full auto mode and as you can see from the histogram the tones of each of the colours are almost the same. I used a sheet of white paper, the front of a piece of plaster board and the base of a small trampoline all in the same area, no flash was used as there was enough natural light from the window.
In manual mode you can see from the histogram and images themselves the tones followed the correct tonal values. There was no need for any adjustments to the settings as all the images were taken within the same area under the same lighting conditions.