Assignment 4: Languages of Light


Revisit one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or studio light from Part Four (4.2, 4.3 or 4.4) and prepare it for formal assignment submission:

  • Create a set of between six and ten finished images. For the images to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, for instance a subject, or a particular period of time.
  • Include annotated contact sheets of all of the photographs that you’ve shot for the exercise (see notes on the contact sheet in Part Three).
  • Assignment notes are an important part of every assignment. Begin your notes with an introduction outlining why you selected this particular exercise for the assignment, followed by a description of your ‘process’ (the series of steps you took to make the photographs). Reference at least one of the photographers mentioned in Part Four in your assignment notes, showing how their approach to light might link in to your own work. Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you’ve developed the exercise in order to meet the descriptors of the Creativity criteria. Write 500–1,000 words.

Include a link (or scanned pages) to Exercise 4.5 in your learning log for your tutor’s comments.

Photos & Contact Sheets

Contact sheets-1contact-sheets-21.jpg


The images I have produced are based on Exercise 4.3 regarding the use of artificial ambient light. This was a natural choice as I intended to produce a set of images of the steelworks at night previously for my own pleasure so the idea to also use my work for this assignment was a simple one. Trying to create a series of photos based on the steel works where I work lit up in all it’s glory was and exciting challenge. There are a multitude of different light sources ie halogen, florescent, ultra violet, led and your everyday working lamps. The main problem I found was the sheer power of some of the spot lamps made it impossible to aim my camera in areas I wished to take a photo without completely washing the image out with huge flares, to overcome this I simple had to keep moving until the beams were behind me which was not always possible as I am limited to where I am allowed to setup as not to contravene company health and safety regulations.
I wanted to capture the site from the large scale buildings and machinery down to the portacabins and containers dotted all over the steelworks, showing that a simple well composed image of something as simple as gas tanks can be just as impressive as full scale blast furnace lit up whilst under maintenance. I found myself engrossed in the geometrical structures, lines and forms created by the buildings, pipework, containers and machinery with the light helping highlight these forms and created a more pleasing image for the eye to peruse over.  The steelworks almost looks dormant at night, like a catnapping beast ready to spring into action at first light. Using a 35mm lens on a cropped sensor is also the closest I could get get to the 50mm natural eyesight feel which I was trying to achieve.
This set of images was mainly inspired by Tom Paiva and his love of Industry at Night and have to agree his idea that industrial buildings do look a lot cleaner cut at night without the flaky paintwork and rust patches showing up quite so much. In a way I believe my work almost imitates Paiva’s images but unintentionally, we both look for the geometrical shapes and lines in every day pipework, containers and structures.


I started my research into use of artificial light with one of the most famous night photographers Brassai.
Brassai was Hungarian born in 1899 his real name was Gyula Halasz and took the name Brassai from the town’s name where he was born Brasso. Yet another great photographer who never wanted to really become a photographer and actual scorned photography, his ambition was to become a journalist until he met a fellow Hungarian André Kertész in Paris who taught Brassai how to take photos. He collated a collection of photos in 1933 called Paris la Nuit, which explored Paris’s madams, prostitutes, criminals, open dens and cheap music halls.

Brassai (Gyula Halasz), Prostitute at angle of Rue de la Reynie and Rue Quincampoix, From “Paris by Night”, 1933

Not following advise from fellow photographer Brassie believed that images should given the additional light required if needed and not like most only using the available light. He would gauge the exposure times by how long it would take him to smoke a cigarette.
Unlike Cartier-Bresson’s photographs of decisive moments Brassai’s are more staged, the subject is aware of the photographer and collaborate with his. Very few photographers ventured out at night in this period, where Brassai revelled in the night time, befriending pimps, prostitutes and thugs who would let Brassai photograph them freely. He was also accepted backstage to photograph naked showgirls. At the end of the night he would return to his hotel room draw the curtains and turn the space into his darkroom.
Moving on from Brassai I came across another photographer Tom Paiva who studyed a BA Photography degree at San Francisco Academy of Art. Paiva also enjoys the night for his photography which consist of industrial and urban landscapes. Much like Brassai Paiva preferred using a large format camera purely due to the detail that could be produced with taken photos in poor light.

View 2-070918a low res
Co-Gen Power Plant, by Tom Paiva

Technical Approach

As recommended by my tutor I opted for faster prime lens a Nikon 35mm 1.8 lens which I find perfect for night shots, Nikon D5600, tripod and remote shutter. All the images are set to ISO 250 and f8 with various exposure times ranging from 1.3 secs to 15 secs. Images have been cropped and aesthetically altered through Adobe Lightroom mainly to reduce the flares from spot lights.

Self Assessment

This was the second attempt at taking these images the first time I came to realise the lens I was using was not giving a clear enough photo which I personally was not content to use. With the second shoot I was happy with the 35mm lens I choose to use for most of the images but always had a niggling that a wider lens should have been used on certain shots, quickly I refrained from changing lenses as this was not following the look I was aiming for, I should trust my own judgement and stick with it as I did in this shoot. Eventually I created a set of photos I was pleased with even though I did succumb to cropping and touching up certain images a process that I know can achieve amazing shots but myself I am not always happy to do as this for me stepped outside the purpose of using a 35mm lens in the first place, in other words now we are not looking at what the eye can see as a whole but only part of that frame. Even though I have been over this site many times before I think I should have surveyed it a little more during the daylight to gauge where to setup my equipment instead of stumbling around in the dark.
In my own opinion I captured the assignment criteria by using artificial ambient light from exercise 4.3 even though there were at some point direct light and flares these were unavoidable but were also kept to a minimum as not to overpower the shots. I would even go as far to say some of the shots would follow Brassai’s images with dimly lit places almost giving an alien feel to the overall photo.

Link to Exercise 4.5 Ex Nihilo

Exercise 4.5

Illustration: Brassai (Gyula Halasz) 1933, Prostitute at angle of Rue de la Reynie and Rue Quincampoix, From “Paris by Night” Pinterest link to image [Accessed: 16/01/2018]

Illustration: Paiva, Tom Co-Gen Power 2002 Plant [Accessed:18/02/2018]

Tutor’s Feedback

Please feel free to see my tutor’s feedback through the link below

Link to Tutor’s Feedback

Assignment 4 Rework

As per my tutor’s feedback I went back to my photos I shot for this assignment and picked another two which I believe are more interesting, the images 5 & 9 are removed and available to see below.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s