Thursday, 27 September 2012

Contrast and Shadow fill

Exercise  - 11 photographs

The purpose of this exercise is to show the effect of different reflective surfaces on contrast and shadow fill in an image.

By creating a simple still life and placing a light source to one side and at a 90 degree angle to the camera various types of reflective surfaces are used to fill the shadows. Both shadow and highlights are required in an image to illustrate texture and reveal shape and contour.

Reference image.
No reflector - light source at 90 degrees.
The images below are placed in order of contrast with the highest contrast first.

Black "reflector"
Black reflector - opposite light source.
The image in the series with the highest contrast was taken with a matte black reflector opposite the light source. This has the effect of deepening the shadows by preventing any light being reflected back onto the scene.

White reflector.
White reflector at 3 feet.
With a white reflector placed opposite the light source 3 feet from the object the shadows are lightened when compared to the image with the black reflector. The image below shows the white reflector at 1.5 feet away from the object. Moving the reflector closer has only resulted in a marginal difference in lightening the shadows further.
White reflector at 1.5 feet.
Matt silver reflector
Matt silver reflector
Smooth shiny silver reflector
Smooth shiny silver reflector
Crinkled silver reflector
Crinkled silver reflector
As you would expect the silver reflector does a much better job of filling the shadows with the crinkled silver reflector being the most effective.

Diffused light source
Diffused light source 

In addition to the images showing the effects of various reflectors, diffusing the light source itself can also reduce contrast in an image.

The results are as I expected with the most efficient shadow fill being created by the crinkled silver reflector and the black "reflector" creating the highest contrast.

Whilst working on this exercise I remembered visiting Edward Weston's exhibition in Edinburgh and being amazed at the images on display. His black and white images are a great example of high contrast images and the use of shadow to create depth and form.

Assignment 4 - Thought and Ideas

Finally. My camera has been returned from repair and I can get stuck into assignment 4 properly.

The past few weeks I've been catching up on writing some posts for the exercises already completed for section 4 of my coursework. I love taking pictures. Anything and everything. I can't tell you how much I have missed having my camera.

In it's absence I've been trying to decide what the "object" should be that I need to photograph for this assignment. It's suggested something with colour, shape, form and texture should be used to demonstrate the effects of light and looking at other students work these objects are quite varied. Initially I had thought about using my daughter and took a few speculative photographs to see how this might work out.

This is probably the best image in the series. I particularly like how there are still details in the shadow areas which suggests a 3 dimensional shape rather than a 2 dimensional silhouette. I have no experience of using studio lighting and although I had borrowed some professional lights, getting the correct angles and effects was harder on this scale than using a table top set up which is much easier to move around and position correctly. There are a few other images taken in candle light and outdoors which could be improved upon so I haven't completely set aside this as a possibility.

I don't see any point in taking the easy option when completing the assignments but I do have to consider the time constraints here and I certainly don't want to get bogged down by indecision the same way I did with assignment 3 - colour. A still life series would be so much more time efficient but I feel that would be the easier option for me. Do I want to make the compromise? Would I learn as much? Probably not but I fear this time around I will have to settle on the easier option or risk not completing this course. Finding a day when both my daughter and I are free at the same time is proving impossible in the next few weeks. As I am planning on continuing my studies with the OCA People and Places module perhaps portrait photography is something I can concentrate on then. For now I think I have to be realistic and find another suitable subject for the assignment.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Shiny Surfaces

Exercise  - 4-10 photographs

Depending on the object being photographed the reflected light will have an effect on the final image. Most surfaces reflect light as a combination of diffuse reflection, where the reflected light is scattered equally in all directions and direct reflection, where the reflected light bounces back at exactly the same angle as it is transmitted. It is important not to confuse diffuse transmission of light and diffuse reflection here.

Diffuse transmission - is diffusing the light source by use of a light tent or other translucent material. This has no effect on whether the reflection is diffuse.
Diffuse reflection - is light reflected from a subject.

Diffuse reflections are the same brightness no matter which angle we view them. Because shiny surfaces like polished metal transmit mainly direct reflection it is very difficult to photograph without seeing the light source as a "hot spot" in the metal. In my limited experience of photographing metal not only can you see the light source but also the entire surrounding area reflected in the surface.

For this exercise a shiny object is photographed from above firstly without any special "equipment" and then using some tracing paper in the shape of a cone and some experimentation in lighting angles to see what effect this can have.

This is the recommended "equipment". A shiny object, in this case an ice cream scoop, scissors, sellotape and some tracing paper.

You can see from the following reference photograph the common problems of shooting shiny objects.
Photographing a shiny object

The next two images show the use of the cobbled together paper cone which sits around both the object and the camera lens and effect of moving the light source.

Light source closer.
I suppose you could say the resulting images are marginally better with the paper cone, at least the reflection of the surroundings, camera and photographer have been removed. Moving the light source had little effect on the reflection nor did rotating the object. I expect the results would have been better if I had been able to get some proper white tracing paper and not had to use an alternative which has resulted in a colour cast on the images, or perhaps used a shiny object with a textured surface.

I can see in theory how this works but the exercise was a bit of a nightmare. Trying to construct the cone and secure it around the lens and also the object being photographed was really fiddly and time consuming. The tracing paper cone idea does result in less extraneous reflections from the surroundings but doesn't completely remove the view of the lens in the final image. I'm now left wondering how a professional would handle photographing this sort of surface and reminded why I try to avoid them.  

Monday, 17 September 2012

Personal Project.

I Like Your Style - Project

My personal project finally gets off the ground.

Despite still not having my camera returned from repair I have finally managed to add my first image to the personal project I have started alongside and as a continuation of my coursework.

I borrowed a friends camera and wandered around the streets of St Andrews on a mission to find the first image for my "I Like Your Style" project. I plucked up the courage to ask a young lady, who looked amazing, if I could take her picture as part of my coursework. Thankfully she agreed without any hesitation. I had previously set up my camera so that there would be no delay and took just one image.

It was a sunny evening with the sun quite low in the sky which has helped to add a warmth to the image. I used a little fill in flash as we were in the shade despite the sunshine.
I admit to feeling very apprehensive about approaching  the young lady but her reaction was delight rather than the suspicion I was expecting.  I remembered to give her a copy of my blog address so that she could see what I was working on but forgot in my haste to escape to ask her name. Luckily she has since contacted me to say how pleased she was at being asked for her picture and provided her details for my "I Like Your Style" page.
As a first encounter with photographing strangers in the street it went much better than I expected. I don't expect I will always be so lucky.
The points to remember for next time.

What worked well
  • Seize the moment and just ask. I know I'll regret it later if I don't.
  • Have my camera set up and ready to shoot straight away.
  • Remember to carry my camera at all times.

What didn't work so well
  • Try not to rush. Although people may be reluctant to stop because they are busy, once they have agreed remember not to waste the opportunity  - get a good picture and all the information you need. 

Tungsten and Flourescent Lighting - Part 1

Part 1 - Tungsten Lighting

For the first part of this exercise take 3 images composed indoors under tungsten lighting at dusk when the light levels indoors and out are approximately even. Take 1 image with the white balance (WB) set to auto, another at  daylight WB and the third set to tungsten WB. Compare the results.

Comparing the indoor tungsten to the outdoor lighting shows that tungsten lighting produces a warm yellow/orange colouring to a scene. The outdoor lighting appears blue in comparison. All 3 images were taken using spot metering and aperture f/5.6. ISO640 was used to increase the shutter speed and allow the images to be taken handheld.

Image 1 - Tungsten WB
Tungsten WB
The first of these 3 images was taken with the camera WB set to tungsten. Interestingly this recorded the colour temp of 3000 kelvin. This is lower than I expected as I believe tungsten light to be generally regarded as between 3200 and 3400 kelvin. However the scene has recorded much as I remember. The warm yellow colouring indoors created by the artificial light contrasting with the cooler outdoor light. Further reading on the kelvin scale in relation to tungsten lighting indicates that the colour temp of a tungsten light source can be anywhere between 2500k and 3500k depending on the wattage of the light source.

Image 2 - Auto WB
Auto WB
The second image shows an auto WB setting in camera. This recorded a colour temp of 3300 kelvin. Again the auto setting in camera has done a good job and recorded the scene quite accurately. There is only a subtle difference between the two images and I would say either are acceptable.

Image 3 - Daylight WB
Daylight WB
The final image in the series was taken on daylight WB. This recorded a colour temp of 5200 kelvin. This shows a much stronger yellow colour cast resulting in an unnatural colouring of the scene. The added yellow has resulted in the outdoor light moving from a blue tone towards green. If you concentrate on the window frames in the image which are actually white you can see how well the tungsten WB and auto WB in camera has dealt with the light conditions when compared to the daylight WB setting.

The results of this exercise show that both the tungsten and auto WB are fairly close in appearance and in this case either would have been acceptable with the daylight WB being the most inaccurate and giving a yellow/orange colour cast.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Disaster strikes!

It never rains but it pours does it? And I'm not talking about the weather.

As some of you that follow along with my crazy up and down input to this blog will know...I'm either full steam ahead or full stop!

In the last few weeks I have been quietly working away on the images for Assignment 4 and working through the exercises in this section. I have a few posts half written ready just to upload the images and have even managed to do some of the exercises for section 5 of the course - Narrative. So generally for me - quiet productive.

I have been given an extension for completion of the course until January which I am pleased about as I didn't want to rush !! the final exercises or assignments. So far so good.

Unfortunately it's usually when things are going well that something happens isn't it?

Last week my camera broke. Shutter blew. Only 2 months out of warranty and going to cost several hundred pounds to repair. Not only that it could take up to 2 months for the parts required for repair to arrive from Nikon. So now I'm either borrowing a camera from a friend when needed or trying to pry my old Canon out of my daughters hands to complete some of the images. Neither of which are ideal.

The other down side was that last week I was booked on a photographic workshop with Laurie Campbell - one of  Scotland's leading natural history and landscape photographers. Laurie has several books published, as well as supplying images for Getty Images and the RSPB. He also contributes regularly for Outdoor Photography (UK) Magazine, various other magazines, has appeared in several television programmes and been category winner 3 times in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the year competition.

Although the weather was miserable it was a really productive day. Armed with a friends Nikon D90 and loads of tips from Laurie I came away with some shots which I am very pleased with. Not only that but I used manual mode in camera all day and have finally got to grips with it. I have been confident using aperture priority mode in camera for some time now but have always been a bit hesitant about switching to manual. It's the usual story that unless someone shows me how to do it properly I always think I'm missing out on a vital piece of information.

The changeable light and weather throughout the day also tied in nicely with the recent exercises I have been doing on exposure and metering, ISO, white balance and colour temperature for this part of the course. 
Red Fox - Manual mode. f/5.6, ISO400 Shutter speed 1/320sec

Eagle Owl - Manual mode - f/9, ISO400, shutter speed 1/1000sec

Sparrow - Manual mode - f/4.5, ISO400, shutter speed 1/800sec

Red Fox - Manual mode - f/5.6, ISO400, shutter speed 1/200sec
Another reason the timing of my camera failing couldn't have been worse is that on Friday July 27th the Pittenweem Arts Festival in Fife starts and runs until Saturday 4th August.

During that week I will be assisting a fellow photographer from the St Andrews Photographic Society - Stan Farrow ARPS EFIAP - in running photography workshops on Abstract Photography. The workshops are fully booked already and there will be an exhibition of the participants images at the end of the festival.

Hopefully a nice friend will lend me a camera - otherwise I just might have to demonstrate how abstract images can be achieved with a pinhole camera i.e. an old cardboard box cobbled together with some sellotape, a roll of 120 film and a pencil as a spool winder! Eek! 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Judging Colour Temperature

Exercise -  Part 1 - 3 images Part 2 - 9 images

Part 1
One of the reasons I always shoot images in RAW format is so that I can correct or adjust elements post capture e.g. white balance (WB) or exposure. As I know I can make adjustments later I tend to leave my camera WB setting on "auto". Nine times out of ten I would say the camera records the scene accurately and I leave the image WB as shot.

Reading the course material on colour temperature and around the subject in "Light, Science and Magic"  the subject becomes quite scientific discussing electromagnetic radiation and wavelengths. I think in terms of my photography it's sufficient for me to understand the following:
  • colour temperature is measured on the Kelvin scale.
  • for photographic use daylight is 5500 Kelvin.
  • higher numbers contain more cool colours.e.g. 10,000K light is quite blue.
  • lower numbers err towards red/yellow colours.
The visible wavelengths are the colours of the rainbow with blue wavelengths shorter than red. This is why the sky takes on a red/orange tint at sunset because the short blue wavelengths are more easily scattered in the atmosphere than the longer red which are then more visible. Sunlight at midday is colourless because the full range of visible wavelengths are present.

For the first part of this exercise using a camera WB setting of "daylight" take 3 images,  one in the middle of the day in sunlight, another at the same time in shade and finally another at the end of the day when the sun is close to the horizon. Compare the images.

Image 1
Taken in the middle of the day in bright sunlight this image has high contrast but it appears exactly as I remember the scene.

Image 2
Taken in the shade this image also initially appeared to represent the scene as I recall it at the time. Comparing it to the image above afterwards I would say it appears cooler than the "neutral" white balance I remembered.

Image 3
Taken at the end of the day.
(image to follow)

I am expecting the image taken at the end of the day to have a warmer WB than the others which is a result of the light reflected from the sky. The image taken in the shade has less contrast than the full sun image and also a slightly cooler tone.

The camera records the differences in these circumstances quite distinctly and much more than our eyes do as they adjust to the variations in light very quickly. Being aware of the way the camera's WB setting can affect an image when combined with the actual light at the time is another important tool for a photographer to learn to use.

The second part of this exercise is to take a series of pictures but in this case adjust the WB in camera. So in each set of 3 below, one has been taken in auto WB, another sunlight/daylight and the third WB shade.
Compare the images.

Series 1

In this first set of three the auto WB image at the top is closest to my recollection of the colours at the time. The sunlight WB is acceptable but the shade WB image is far too yellow and the colours are unrealistic.

Series 2

In this second series of images it is more difficult to differentiate between the auto WB and the sunlight WB. This is probably because of the variety of deeply saturated colours in the scene which would make either image acceptable. Of the two I prefer the sunlight WB (centre) as the colours of the white flowers are more realistic. Again the shade WB is too yellow.

Series 3

I think it is in this final series of three images that you can see the effect of changing the camera's WB most clearly. The auto WB has recorded the scene quite accurately. The sunlight WB has an overall blue tone and the shade WB has a yellow tone. In this case auto and shade WB are more accurate.

Comparing the results of this exercise has demonstrated how selecting the WB to suit the conditions at the time is important. Selecting the incorrect WB can result in quite a strong colour cast. However it is always possible there may be some creative decision behind using an "incorrect" WB. Generally the auto WB setting does a reasonable job. However I will continue to shoot in RAW format so that I can make adjustments later for the following reasons.

Personally I find reviewing an image in camera difficult. The size of the LCD screen for starters makes it impossible to view colours in any detail and when out in the field the images will be viewed in the ambient lighting conditions which will also have an effect on how it appears. Shooting in RAW format means that I have full creative control over the images.

Although I would be reluctant to rely solely on in camera WB settings, through comparing the results of this exercise, have a better understanding of why it is something to be considered at the time of shooting. 

Measuring Exposure - Part 1

Exercise - 4-6 photographs

For this exercise I have to produce between 4 and 6 images which are deliberately lighter or darker than average and explain why.

Image 1
In this image the subject and background are both light in colour. I deliberately exposed the image so that there were no harsh shadows as I wanted the image to have a soft ethereal feel to it. To help soften any shadows the subject was photographed in a light tent to diffuse the lighting. When photographing light subjects its easy for the camera to underexpose and render the background darker than it actually is. In this case spot metering was used so only a slight +EV value was required.

shutter speed 1/4sec, f/5.6, ISO100

Image 2
This is a high key black and white image of my nephew. It was taken in natural window light with a white reflector used to fill any shadow areas. Matrix metering was used and the camera flash suppressed to avoid any overexposed areas in the image.
shutter speed 1/60sec, f/4, ISO700
 Both of these images were exposed deliberately lighter than average which is confirmed by studying the histograms which are heavily weighted to the right indicating that the majority of the tones within the images are lighter than mid grey.

Image 3
shutter speed 1/160sec, f/9. ISO400
This is an example of an image which is deliberately darker than average. In order to maintain the saturated colours and overall mood of the image I used spot metering in this instance.
Image 4
shutter speed 1/1250sec, f/6.3, ISO200
This image is also darker than average. The subject is relatively bright in contrast to the darker background. Matrix metering was used in this instance and has captured the contrast in the scene well without any further adjustment in exposure being required.


Monday, 21 May 2012

Higher and Lower Sensitivity

Exercise - 12 images

The purpose of this exercise is to study the effect changing ISO sensitivity has on an image comparing the overall effect on appearance and any change in ease of shooting.

It is suggested to photograph a street where there is a mixture of light levels and subject movement in order to access these changes.

I am expecting to see a marked increase in noise as the ISO increases and also a faster shutter speed which would result in less motion blur in moving figures. My current camera, the Nikon D7000, generally has good reviews when it comes to the effects of noise on an image due to its internal noise reduction system but this is something I haven't tested out myself so it will be interesting to see the effect.

ISO 100 - ISO 640
All of these images were taken on Aperture Priority  - f/8. At ISO 100 the shutter speed was 1/350sec which jumped to 1/2000sec at ISO 200, 400 and 640. I had expected a faster shutter speed at increased ISO levels but am surprised by such a marked increase between ISO 100 and ISO 200.

With the slowest shutter speed recorded at 1/350sec there is no motion blur in the image. In hindsight using a narrower aperture to carry out this exercise would have demonstrated the effect on shutter speed better. Viewed at 100% there is very little noise visible in the images.

ISO 800 - 3200

At ISO 800 the shutter speed increased to 1/3000sec at f/8. Between ISO 1250 and ISO 6400+ this increased again to 1/8000sec. Some detail is beginning to appear in the shadow areas at the higher ISO however the brighter areas are also becoming brighter and the colour in the sky less saturated as a result.

ISO 5000 - ISO 6400+
The camera now captures much more detail in the shadow areas but the scene is generally overexposed. Adjusting aperture, shutter speed or using exposure compensation would correct this but generally I can't see a reason I would use such a high ISO value in this type of daytime setting anyway. In low light or night photography high ISO values are much more useful.

Comparing Visible Noise

These are the images take at ISO 100 and ISO 6400+ viewed at 100%.
ISO100  viewed at 100%
ISO 6400+ viewed at 100% 
The speckled appearance of the noise is clearly visible in the image taken at ISO 6400+. More noise is visible in the shadow area than the cobbled street area where it is disguised by the general pattern of the paving. How detrimental this is in the image probably depends on how large the final image will be viewed at and the purpose of the image.

Higher ISO values have their uses and are particularly useful in low light and night photography where the use of a tripod is restricted or not permitted. As a general rule using the lowest possible ISO setting is recommended.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Sartorialist - Scott Schuman

I picked up this book a few months ago not knowing anything about the photographer Scott Schuman. What initially attracted me to the book were the portraits of individuals with a fantastic sense of style. Not your everyday slavishly following fashion type of style but an individual sense of style which captures the sense of the individuals personality.

Very little text accompanies the images in the book which are full length portraits taken in the streets of London, New York, Paris, Tokyo - many of the fashion capitals of the world. At first glimpse you would think this is just a book on fashion. But when you study it you can see that it's much more than that. It's a book on the study of how individuals express themselves and their personality through fashion which has been captured in a photograph.  

Schuman is a self taught photographer with many years experience in the fashion industry  shooting advertising campaigns for the like of Vogue, GQ and Elle magazines. His original idea for the "Sartorialist" was a blog to try to connect the  highly stylised fashion he was seeing at fashion shows with the fashion on the streets. The images stand alone on the pages. No names given to the faces although there are one or two famous faces amongst them. As there is very little text in the book it's difficult to get any idea of the photographer's personality.

In the introduction to the book Scott Schuman explains the lack of commentary.

"I like people to draw their own conclusions, to find their own inspiration without the influence of a guiding hand."

His blog is regarded as the place to be seen in the fashion industry and has a huge following.

There are no clues or technical tips on how the images were taken in the street and for the best part appear to have been taken with natural lighting.  As the topic of my current assignment relates to lighting I have been trying to access these images from that viewpoint. The majority are taken outdoors on a bright but probably overcast day. Possibly a reflector or fill in flash was used to ensure an even illumination of the "model". In over 500 pages of images there are only 5 at the very end which are taken either at night or in what looks like a church with candle light suggesting the photographers preferred method of lighting is natural daylight.

In an article in The Times - March 2009 Schuman is said to have taken inspiration and be a fan of the Seeberger Brothers photography, whose fashionable images of chic ladies in France are credited as being some of the first real fashion photographs. In fact Scott Schuman lists the book Elegance by the Seeberger Brothers on his own blog reading list.

Unfortunately I can't find any images that are copyright free to post here which would show the comparison between Scott Schuman and the Seeberger brothers work but I would urge anyone interested in either  fashion or portrait photography to seek out both.

Here in the university town of St Andrews there is a huge, ever changing student and visitor population. As such there are new faces appearing all year round. Taking images of people in the street is way out of my comfort zone but I feel inspired to give it a go using the "excuse" of being a photography student to set myself a mini project. If you like you can follow my progress and see if I've managed to approach anyone in the street by using the new page tab at the top of this blog. Don't expect to see a picture a day  though it might take me some time to  pluck up the courage to stop people in the street but if nothing else I'll learn all the pitfalls of taking portraits using natural lighting and it should also help consolidate my learning from part 4 of this course. 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Up Close with a Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk  by nickynoo22
Harris Hawk , a photo by nickynoo22 on Flickr.
When I was out in St Andrews today scouting out a few events for Assignment 5, I came across a chap carrying this Harris Hawk on his arm. It turns out it is one of 6 hawks being used in an initiative to reduce the seagull numbers in the town centre which are creating a nuisance.

Bird photography is something I feel you need a good long lens and the patience of a saint for and I have neither. That's probably why I've never been very successful at it. To be fair I've never really tried it, I could never see the appeal.

However I wasn't about to miss an opportunity to take some up close images of this beautiful bird - the fine detail of the new feathers and the razor sharp claws and beak. I'm actually quite stunned at the detail that can be captured when I look at these full size. I don't think I'm ever going to be an avid wildlife photographer but I can now see why it is so appealing to others.

I bumped into this same chap earlier in the week and was kicking myself for not having my camera with me so I was lucky he turned up again. I really should carry my camera with me all the time so that I don't miss these opportunities.  

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Outdoors at Night

Exercise -  12-20 photographs

The purpose of this night time project is to explore the variety of lighting effects and colour in artificial light.

Earlier this week I visited London and used the opportunity to take some of the images for this exercise. A few of the images were taken using a cable release and tripod but most were taken hand held which was only possible by increasing the ISO in camera.

Standard light bulbs use tungsten filaments which have a warm orange tone in photographs if not corrected. This can clearly be seen in the images below which were shot in auto white balance. Most street lighting is produced by sodium-vapour lamps which also produce an orange/yellow light which we often see as light pollution over city skies.
Harbour at Dusk
shutter speed 0.7sec, f/8, ISO400

GB Mini indoor shopping
shutter speed 1/60sec, f/4, ISO400

Date counter Harrods
shutter speed 1/60sec, f/3.5, ISO160

Bella Italia - St Andrews
shutter speed 0.4sec, f/10, ISO1000
All the images above show the warm tones of the indoor tungsten lighting. Of course our eyes and brain are very good at adjusting these colours so that they appear white even though the camera records them in warmer tones. Altering the white balance to suit the lighting situation is recommended however more than once I have made the mistake of forgetting to change this back. This is one of the reasons I shot in RAW format and tend to stick to auto white balance - mistakes can be rectified later. If you forget to alter the cameras white balance from tungsten and then take a picture in natural daylight the resulting image will have a very obvious blue tone.
Tower Bridge Light Trails
shutter speed 4 sec, f/11, ISO100
using tripod and cable release
London Eye at Night
shutter speed 5.6sec, f/8, ISO100
using tripod and shutter release
The Shard - London
shutter speed 10sec, f/6.7, ISO100
using tripod and shutter release
Piccadilly Circus at Night
shutter speed 1/60sec, f/4, ISO400
It's also recommended to take images that include night sky at dusk to maximise the detail in the sky. As I particularly wanted to emphasise the variety of colour in the lights and reflections I decided to wait until it was dark. This shows the vibrant colours of the lighting to greater effect and also the huge variety of lighting used in our cities at night.

One of my first attempts at night photography was with St Andrews Photographic Society. A more experienced member demonstrated the use of bulb mode to take long exposures of passing cars. By leaving the shutter open continuously but covering the lens with black card when there was a lull in the traffic you could increase the number of light trails recorded. In order to do this successfully you first need to calculate the correct exposure time so that you only "reveal" the lens for the correct length of time. It was a very interesting evening but unfortunately, as you can see from the image below, very quiet on the traffic front and I only managed to capture one usable image. 

Bulb mode. 14sec exposure.
Using vibrant coloured lights at night also helps create mood or atmosphere. E.g. the intense lighting of a store trying to entice customers inside or the bright energetic colours of lights at a funfair. In some instances though the lighting can also appear quite cool or neutral.
Cool Britannia
shutter speed 1/60sec, f/4, ISO640

Some more images that show the variety of light outdoors at night.

Waterloo Bridge
shutter speed 1/4sec, f/5.3, ISO800

The shard
shutter speed 3 sec, f/8, ISO100
using tripod and shutter release

House of Parliament
shutter speed 1/5sec, f/5.6, ISO800
Modern developments in street lighting means "white light" alternatives are becoming more popular and beginning to replace sodium-vapour street lights in some areas. These provide a lighting effect that is closer to our natural vision so in the not too distant future the yellow/orange glow of street lights may become less common, although I'm sure there will still be many other varieties and colours of lighting available to record.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Cloudy Weather and Rain

Exercise Part 1 - 4-6 images

The first part of this exercise is to compare images taken of the same scene in both sunlight and cloud. The white balance in camera should be sunlight/daylight in all the images and any differences in camera setting noted.

There can be a marked difference in the strength of colour and light between a sunlit and cloudy day. On a cloudy day the clouds act as a diffuser and even out the light. This soft even lighting results in reduced contrast in the image which will usually allow more detail to be visible in the shadows.

Image 1 - cloudy/Image 2 - Sunlit
 As you can see from the images above Image 1 - taken with cloud cover - has less contrast than the image taken in direct sunlight. The light is even and some would say flat. The cloudy image is cooler and I feel less saturated. Both images were taken on Aperture Priority at f/9, ISO250. To compensate for the lower light levels and as I had selected a fixed aperture, the shutter speed in the cloudy image was longer at 1/320sec compared to 1/250sec in the sunlit image.

In this second set of images the most obvious effect of the change in conditions is the effect on the tone and colour saturation.
Image 1 - cloudy/Image 2 - Sunlit
Image 1 - taken in cloudy weather - is cooler and has deeper shadow areas with very little detail visible. This may be partly due to the angle of view. In terms of camera setting however they are identical which I hadn't expected. Both taken on Aperture Priority f/5.6, ISO100, shutter speed 1/45sec. My only explanation for this is the latitude that the wider aperture has allowed in  terms of capturing the available light.

Exercise Part 2 - 3 images
The second element of this exercise involves taking a few images on an overcast day. In this first example my aim was to capture the vibrant colour of the flowers and avoid any distracting highlights in the background or shadows beneath the flowers. The overcast conditions also have the benefit of showing the deep saturation of colour in the flowers.
f/3.3, ISO 250, Shutter speed 1/250sec

In this second image the overcast lighting has accentuated the texture of the sandstone. There is just enough directional light to show some shadow and accentuate textures but the diffused light means that the shadows are also softer and less pronounced. The shadows in this image are there to serve a purpose and are not intended to be a noticeable element in the image.

I like to take images with strong graphical elements when the weather is overcast or cloudy as these make stronger images when converted to black and white. In this particular image I wanted to show the solitude at the beach on a very cold day.

Exercise Part 3
The final part of this exercise involves taking images in the rain, not something I do very often but when I do it's with the aim of catching kids in wellies or bright umbrellas to brighten up an image. Other times the sunshine after a rain shower can create some opportunities.
Aperture Priority - ISO 200, f/5.6 at 1/750sec
I tend to work in aperture priority and in cloudy weather or rain the exposure times are generally longer. In some cases I might use a tripod but generally to keep the exposure times manageable for hand held images I increase the ISO or adjust the aperture in camera. Luckily the camera I use, a Nikon D7000, has one of the best high ISO performances so this is not too much of a compromise.

I've made a note to myself to photograph more wet weather this year. One thing I can be sure of is that there will certainly be plenty of suitable days.