The Art of Photography
Assignment 4: Light
During the time I was doing the exercises for Part 4 I also became interested in other things. I spent a few days in the Peak District to reconnect with my childhood and took many photographs with the intention of doing a personal photography project. Hopefully I can get back to this once this Assignment is complete and I have a little spare time before I start on Part 5.
I began drawing classes, which will continue and also decided to learn how to use Adobe In-Design with the intention of making my own book. My interest in this came from going on a bookbinding one day workshop. I bought a Pentax film camera and then a fellow student very kindly gave me an Olympus OM1-N. My experiences with these will be appearing in another post. My tutor had suggested I look at Edward Weston’s ‘Pepper’ and Robert Mapplethorpe’s ‘Flowers’. I attempted a pepper shot, which turned into a pineapple one and then fell in love with Robert Mapplethorpe’s work. More blog posts with images to follow.
I also attended a Study visit to the Post-Modernism Exhibition and went I went into the separate photography Exhibition I realised I understood the intentions of the photographers. This gave me quite a boost.
All in all, given all these different preoccupations, it’s taken me quite some time to get to this Assignment. I particularly found the use of photographic lighting and accessories to be quite challenging when I did the relevant exercises. I used those available to me and wrote up the results but didn’t feel comfortable with them. This is due to three main factors I think. I’m not a naturally technical person and had to get used to quite a lot of exposure alterations to allow for remote flash. Flash didn’t seem to be a good medium to use for some of the subjects I chose (e.g. an alabaster statuette and an ivory figurine). I found I was focusing more on getting the flash lighting right than connecting with my subject.
I used several subjects for the exercises, in anticipation that one of them might be a good subject for this assignment. These were an alabaster statuette, three ivory figurines and a roman bust. I thought some of the images were good but I found it difficult to find eight images of each which fit the criteria. I eventually decided I would use a small Japanese porcelain cup which is both delicate and colourful. I have allocated a specific description to each image as per the criteria although, of course more than one criteria has been met. Here it is:-
No. 1: Form
In the garden and lit from the back by sunlight. Depth is shown by the angle which captures the back of the cup and the placement of the berries within and without. The light is harder and shows the blueness in the porcelain. It looks as if it might feel cold when I hold it. Landscape view because I wanted to include some of the texture of the tree bark.
No. 2: Form
Taken indoors and showing the other side of the cup. I used a light tent (with black base) with curtains drawn and a small photographic lamp angled 45 degrees overhead from the left. . A black reflector was used on top to control the light, and placed so that the light would fall down the front of the cup. You can particularly see the form and shape of the handle and the berry and, of course, the colour of the berry. The shadows around the bottom of the cup also delineate the shape of its base. This has a softer look than no. 1. – as if it would be warm against my mouth. In terms of form, the cup looks more insubstantial than No. 1 so I think it is less successful. I decided this would look best in square format.
No. 3 – Colour and texture
In the greenhouse which has a N/E light. Again (as No. 1) this is a harder but clear light (although more diffused through the greenhouse windows). It shows up the colour of the cup pattern. The shape of the left side/bottom shows clearly against the plant pot in the background and the different, rougher texture of the wooden shelf.
No. 4 – Colour
Sunlight from the front provides a clear light which brings out the colour of the pattern. Form is highlighted by the angle of the shot and the shadows at the bottom of the cup delineate its roundness.
No. 5 – Texture
Similar lighting to No. 2. The light falling on the handle and left of the cup brings out the texture of the pale-blue paint on the cup and also the shape and form of the handle.
No. 6 – Texture and colour
Daylight outdoors. Composed so that the light falls from the side upon the red berries and highlights the shine and colour of them against the muted colours of the cup in the background.
No. 7 – Shape
Indoors, with the cup against a black background which shows shape of cup and berries. I held a dark blue card over the top of the tent but this wasn’t quite enough to remove the shine from the cup.
No. 8 – Shape
Shape shown by backlighting from a small Lightbox. If I did this again I would make more effort to control the light falling on the front of the cup. It certainly provides edge-lighting on the handle but I would prefer not to have shine on the front of the cup.
No. 9 – Something different
I had been experimenting along the lines of Mapplethorpe’s flowers and decided I wanted to do something similar with the cup. This was taken in natural light. I placed the cup on green felt on the windowsill and drew the curtains almost shut. There was a black card at the back and I used silver reflectors on the lower left (tilted slightly upwards) and on the right side to reflect the light on the petals. In processing I used just a touch of high-pass filter in Photoshop and low-key filter in Nik Color Efex. There is some shine on the cup and I can see the green of the felt reflected on the bottom of the cup. However, I still like it and want to do more of this type of work. I became very absorbed in placing the reflectors and working out where the light fell – much more so than with flash/artificial lighting.
I’m pleased to have actually completed this Assignment as I was getting worried this would never happen. It’s very different having to do eight compositions of the same object to bring out its various qualities satisfactorily and whatever I did I wasn’t satisfied which is why there is a No. 9. I thought I’d completed but was still waking up in the night with yet another idea. I most enjoyed making use of natural light in different ways but know that I do have to become more competent and confident in using artificial lighting.
8th December 2011