Part 4 : Light
Project – The time of day
Exercise 5: Light Through the Day
I’d read quite a way ahead and so I took most of the photographs for this exercise way back in June. It’s only now that I’m settling down to reflect upon them. I’ve been going through a more acute phase of loss of confidence in myself as a photographer and being confused as to what I want to achieve from the Course. My attitude towards the exercises hasn’t helped either. My logic knows they’re there to aid my learning and increase my skill, but my inner child takes me back to being 10 years old and having to practise at the piano whilst my friends were playing outside. I gave up the piano when I was 11 but I don’t want to give up the Course.
Thankfully, I’ve gone through a sea change over the past week or so, helped by Course colleagues who’ve acknowledged that they’re going through this same kind of process. It’s been good to affirm that I’m not on my own and it’s a natural part of the learning curve. I intend to write about the exercises in a different way this time by documenting them first and then using later images to evaluate how I’ve absorbed the learning into my practice.
14th June 2011
For me, this exercise needed a day when I didn’t have much else to do and could keep returning to the same spot. In the interests of expediency I chose our back garden. Most of the garden faces south but there are several trees around the edges which cast shadow. The garden at the side on the right doesn’t get sun until the afternoon. But it’s then blocked by the neighbour’s trees. The bright sunlight and dark green trees, combined with lighter flowers make exposure complicated. I’ve been using manual mode most of the time now in attempt to get the right balance.
All of the photographs were taken at ISO 100 except for No, 10 which was ISO 200. and I used auto white balance, with evaluative metering mode except for No. 8. I think that was because I forgot to change the setting after I’d been somewhere else to take some other photographs! I was interested to note that the colour temperature stayed at between 4250K and 4750K throughout on this sunny day except for No. 10 taken at 20.42pm when it was 6700K.
No. 1 was taken when I was walking back from the greenhouse at the side of the house. You can see the trees and the light of the early morning sun in the middle.
No 1. 8.40am No. 2 – 8.47am
No. 3 – 9.29am No. 4 – 11.40am
No. 5 – 12.27pm No. 6: 14.22pm
No. 7 – 15.55pm No. 8 – 18.17pm
No. 9 – 19.40pm No. 10 – 20.42 pm
I find No. 1 the most interesting because I was standing in the shadow of the house in the early morning sun, and looking from dark into light. As the day goes on and the earth moves around the sun I can see the shadows lengthen until, by the end of the day, there are no shadows at all in this part of the garden. I had framed to avoid the sky and see how the light was falling so now I will look at some later images where I was dealing with light, shadow and sky.
No. 11 – 1st August 2011 at 13.43pm
Wisley RHS Garden on a hot, sunny day. f/11.0 @ 1/80 ISO 100. Manual exposure on evaluative metering. There was enough blue in the sky not to create highlight problems.
No. 12 – 15th October 2011 at 13.53pm
Claremont Landscape Garden. Another very sunny day in early Autumn. f/11 @1/80. ISO 400. This was taken at 80mm focal length and with manual exposure. I had a polarizer filter fitted and had to go up to ISO 400 to gain sufficient speed to balance the focal length and avoid camera shake. When I looked at the metadata I realised that I had used spot metering. Why?! Because I had used it for the previous photograph, where I had focused on someone’s leg, and had forgotten to change the metering mode.
No. 13 – 20th October 2011 12.51 pm
The Garrison Church of St Barbara at Deepcut, Surrey. Built in 1901 of corrugated iron (then considered an advanced building material. http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/59432
I had been to a meeting and got slightly lost. As I was driving along trying to find a parking place to set up my satnav I saw the Church. The sun was pouring down on its whiteness, from the side and I just had to stop and take a photograph. I always have my small Ricoh GDR3 in my bag, set on program. It was actually very hard to see the image in the LCD screen because the reflected light was so bright. I want to go back at some point, and a different time of day, to take some more photographs from a different angle, as the one shown in the web-site link is taken wide-angle slightly from one side and is so much better than this! That’s if I can find it again!
There is a comment in the Handbook (p. 117) stating that “Most casual snapshots are taken some time around the middle of the day, between mid-morning and mid-afternoon….this is an undemanding time of day to shoot”. That stung a bit, because I have to admit that a lot of my photographs are still taken in the middle of the day even though I know that the light isn’t always at its best. I can see from the series of ‘through the day’ that shadows can create more interesting compositions and I must make more effort to go out at either end of the day.
Another major learning point is to make sure to check all my settings. Image No. 12 was at some distance; has a lot of green tones and was a general scene so the spot-metering probably wasn’t too crucial but it could have been.
I know I’ve ended with an image taken on program but I do now mainly use manual setting on my larger Canon and feel much more confident with it.
26th October 2011
Part 4 : Light
(Project – The colour of light)
Exercise 3 and 4 : Judging Colour Temperature
I was interested to read about the colour of light. Mainly because I have never thought of light in that way as I think more in terms of bright, misty, gloomy and dark. I have certainly not thought of sunlight as being colourless or ‘white’. To my eyes when the sun is very bright everything looks ‘washed out’. I suppose it’s the same thing with different terminology. I certainly know now when it isn’t a good idea to take particular photographs because of the quality of light. How is it though that bright sunlight on a day in England ‘washes out’ colours and leads to risk of highlight clipping whereas that happens much less often in the Mediterranean countries for example?
I own more than one camera and can also see how the different cameras produce images with slightly different colouring. My Canon seems to produce images which are warmer and more earthy in tone whereas my little Ricoh produces images which have more of a blue tinge. I’m now thinking that must be due to the way in which the different sensors capture the quality of light. I understand about wavelengths and the scattering of light as I’m reading it but my mind keeps resisting the explanation. I like the sky to look blue. It makes it more vivid and immediate than seeing it as scattered wavelengths. Still I now have an explanation for my grandson when he asks, “Why is the sky blue?” – a question that most children seem to ask at a certain age.
My Canon 500D has 7 seven standard white balance settings. I looked at the manual but this doesn’t give me the actual colour temperature settings for each one so I looked on the web.
- Auto White Balance evaluates the scene and decides the most appropriate white point. The system can be fooled if there is an abundance of one colour or no actual white for the meter to use as a reference. This results in an image with a colour cast. I’m thinking that this could well apply to landscape photography, particularly in Spring and Summer.
- Daylight – for bright sunshine with a balance for a colour temperature of around 5,200K. this is slightly cooler than noon sunlight but works best for the greatest part of the day.
- Shade – the colour temperature is higher (bluer) and usually around 7,000K. Setting most suited to areas of light shade rather than very heavy shadow.
- Cloudy or hazy – sets a colour temperature of around 6,000K and best used on days when the sun is behind the clouds, creating a very even and diffuse light.
- Tungsten – assumes a colour temperature of around 3,200 and suitable for most tungsten lamps normally emitting a yellow light.
- Fluorescent – set for around 4000K. However there are six types of fluorescent light, each with a different temperature. They also emit an interrupted spectrum with peaks over quite a wide range and also change over time, gradually altering the colour temperature of light they emit.
- Flash – is a very white light with a colour temperature around 6,000K.
There are two further settings which give total control:-
- Custom white balance – you tell the camera which area in the scene is supposed to be white.
- Kelvin – You set the colour temperature in degrees Kelvin and may be the best setting to use if you have a separate colour temperature meter. Test shots will be needed to calibrate the colour.
I’ve been shown how to set custom white balance but it hasn’t sunk in yet! It’s a relief to know that, in most photography, there’s no need to be exact about colour temperature and it’s enough, “to know when the light is not white, and if only by a little or by a lot”. (p. 114 Handbook.) I mainly use auto white balance but sometimes I have switched the white balance setting. I’ve also altered it in Photoshop using the white balance dropper in ACR and/or altered the temperature and tint sliders.
Three photographs of the same subject, at different times of the day and using the daylight white balance setting.
No. 1: Full sunlight during the middle of the day
f/8 1/60 ISO 100 Taken at 1.26pm
No. 2: Shade in the middle of the day
f/8 ¼ ISO 100 Taken at 1.29pm
No. 3: In sunlight when the sun is nearer the horizon
f/8 1/6 ISO 100 Taken around 6.20pm
Image No. 1 is the purest in terms of colour and I can see how the fountain gets bluer as the days goes. The grass looks much greener as well – almost unreal. I can’t see any orange in image No. 3 though. I’ve checked the colour temperature which is 4900 K for each of the images which is the daylight setting temperature on my camera and so slightly less than 5,200K.
Three further images at the same times of day but varying the white balance setting – daylight, shade and auto.
Full sunlight during the middle of the day (around 12.46pm)
Slight noise reduction and sharpening used.
No. 4: Daylight WB (4900K)
No. 5: Shade WB (6350K)
No. 6: Auto WB (4200K)
The statue had the sun shining full onto it and the shadow at the back is from a small tree which is behind and to the right of it. At Shade WB the image is too yellow. There isn’t a lot of difference between No. 4 and No. 6 and I can’t decide which one I prefer. These images were taken on 2nd October and I decided to experiment by using a similar image taken on 16th September, around 1.26pm, using Auto WB. I altered the settings to daylight and shade WB in ACR:-
No. 7: ACR Daylight WB setting in ACR
No. 8: Shade WB setting in ACR
No. 9: Actual Auto WB setting in camera, which evaluated at 4750K)
f/8 1/15 ISO 100
The sun was higher in the sky and the time a little earlier but this gives similar effects to the earlier images which had settings in camera. Does this mean that I might just as well use the Auto WB setting in camera and then change the settings in Photoshop?
Shade during the middle of the day – taken around 1.45 pm
I chose this scene because it was certainly in the shade, of the tree, and the playground behind was in full brightness of the sun. Also we have the colours in the playground, wood-tones and earth tones.
No. 10: Daylight WB 4900K
f/8 1/80 ISO 200
No. 11: Shade WB 6350K
f/8 1/60 ISO 200
No. 12: Auto WB 4600K
f/8 1/60 ISO 22
As before, the Shade WB (No. 11) gives a more yellow hue, which I don’t like. I can see more blueness in the earth on Auto WB.
In sunlight when the sun is close to the horizon
This was around 6.20pm on 26th September and the sun was beginning to set low on the horizon. Carters’ Steam Fair was visiting and we went along to take some photographs. The fairy lights on the rides etc were also beginning to compete with the low sun. All images were f/8 @ 1/40 ISO 100.
No. 13: Daylight WB 4900K
No. 14: Shade WB 6350K
No. 15: Auto WB 5700
I can’t see too much difference between the three.
As we went around the Fair I experimented with the settings. One was taken from low down and so I used the Shade WB setting.
No. 16: Shade WB 7500K
f/11 1/40 ISO 200
I did some editing on this to lighten it and also bring more attention to the dog’s tail.
As it became darker the lights became more evident. I used Fluorescent WB on this one and also aimed to show up the steam against the sky.
No. 17: Fluorescent WB 3800K
f/8 1/60 ISO800
What’s clear is that Auto WB does evaluate the scene and so sets varying points on the scale whereas the different settings seem more standardized. In this respect my first point of call would always be Auto WB unless there were special circumstances. – such as in studio photography and, maybe, landscape where there is a predominance of one particular colour. I was also interested to see whether the WB setting might have an effect on the exposure setting but it doesn’t really seem to.
14th October 2011
Part 4 : Light
Project – The Intensity of Light
Exercise 2 : Higher and lower sensitivity
The first two images were taken with my Ricoh GDR 3 compact camera on a day with an overcast sky. I went to a small shopping centre in a village near to where I live.
No. 1: ISO 200 f/5 at 1/500
No. 2: ISO 800 f/7.1 at 1/1000
At 100% there was obviously much more noise/graininess at ISO 800 particularly on the CCTV cameras; car number plates and the Waitrose sign in the distance. This is a small camera which produces a jpeg at approximately 15” x 11”. Noise would be very noticeable at ISO 800 if the jpeg was expanded.
The next ten photographs were taken with my Canon 500D DSLR, using my 15-85mm EFS lens. Again it was a cloudy day.
No. 3: f/11 ISO 100 at 1/250 – lens at 24mm focal length
No. 4: f/11 ISO 800 at 1/20000
I chose this roundabout because of the mix of dark and light tones and moving cars. At ISO 800 there is very noticeable graininess at 100% but I had to look much harder to see this at 25%. At ISO 100 the shutter speed was still sufficient to freeze the motion of the car but I can see some motion blur on the bonnet.
No. 5: f/11 ISO 100 @ 1/25 lens at 70mm
No. 6: f/11 ISO 800 @ 1/250 lens at 70mm
There seems to be more depth of colour in No. 6 but the foliage in the background looks more blurred and I can see the noise on the road particularly.. The shutter speed of No. 5 is decidedly low for the size of the lens when handheld, which it was.
No. 7: f/11 ISO 100 @1/100 Lens at 63mm
No. 8: f11 ISO 800 @ 1/800 Lens at 63mm
I can’t see a large difference at 100% between the two here
No. 9: f/11 ISO 100 @ 1/100 Lens at 44mm
No. 10: f/11 ISO 80@ 1/800 Lens 44mm
Looking hard, at 100% , I can see that the wording is less clear on No. 10.
No. 11: f/8 ISO 100 @ 1/800 Lens at 19mm
No. 12: f/8 ISO 800 Lens at 19mm
I can’t really see any difference in texture between these two.
Canon DSLR with EF135mm F/2L USM lens
I decided to do something different, and more interesting to me this time. I don’t know why but, even though, we’re told to be as creative as we would like, I always seem to descend into ordinariness when I’m doing these exercises. Maybe I’m hoping that some magic will occur as a result of completing them and what was banal will turn into something beautiful.
I have this new lens (bought via Ebay) which can be wonderfully sharp. However, it’s quite heavy handheld and does not have image stabilization. Both these factors mean that I do have to keep up the shutter speed if I hand-hold but it’s been another technical challenge to me to work out the different combinations of shutter speed, aperture and ISO.
It was a beautiful, sunny day so I thought I’d take the lens a walk along with our two dogs and off we went to the Common. Sun and trees mean shadows and dappled light. Add to that two dogs who have creamy coats and black muzzles and rarely stay still (except with heads down) searching out pine cones, bits of bark and other fascinating objects!
No. 13: f/5 @1/50 ISO 400
Dora standing still! I used evaluative metering, hoping that this would cope the best with the cream, black and brown.The aperture was right but, even though I increased the ISO to 400, the speed was too slow and this shows in her face. There was some improvement through sharpening etc but her face is still slightly blurred.
No. 14: f/3.2 @1/200 ISO 400
I used centre-=weighted metering on Digby. To see if it would cope with the contrasts better than evaluative. Auto exposure mode gave a shutter speed at 1/200 and ISO at 400. On preview I could see flashing on Digby’s coat so I reduced the exposure by -0.33. His head was in shadow so there is less definition but I was able to improve this somewhat in editing.
No. 15: f/2.2 @1/200 ISO 100
Lady in red walking through the dappled light. Auto exposure gave a fast enough speed with a low ISO setting but, again, exposure was reduced by -0.33 to take account of her hair. There was still highlight clipping on her dog though.
A higher ISO setting does lead to marked graininess, even with a small size image, when using a smaller compact camera. On the whole, I need a higher ISO setting to give a suitable shutter speed when I use my 135mm lens hand-held. That applies with dappled light/shade but would be less necessary with a more even brightness.
I need to inject more creativity into my exercises because when I do I feel more pleased with the results.
10th October 2011