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
Part 4 : Light
Exercise 1 : Measuring Exposure (Project – the Intensity of Light)
My Canon 500D DSLR camera has four metering patterns;-
- Evaluative – (aka smart predictive and matrix). This is an all-round metering mode where the exposure is set automatically to suit the scene.
- Partial metering – Effective when the background is much brighter than the subject due to backlighting etc. The metering is weighted more in the centre.
- Spot metering – for metering a specific part of the subject or scene.
- Centre weighted average – the metering is weighted at the centre and then averaged for the entire scene.
When I first got a DSLR (just over a year ago now) I kept confusing, for example, spot metering with spot focussing and it’s taken me some time to appreciate that I can have different combinations and also that I can lock the exposure with the exposure button star button and change the focussing pattern by pressing another button. It’s fine when I’m photographing a scene and there’s time to set everything up, including the tripod, but still problematic for me at times when I want to take a photograph quickly because of what’s happening around me. So far, though, I’ve managed to avoid the temptation to just go into auto or program mode.
This first exercise has been a mix of experimentation and miscalculation – not helped by the fact that I’ve also recently acquired two new lenses and wanted to practise with them. The 135mm Canon lens doesn’t have image stabilisation and I need to ensure I have the right shutter speed to avoid camera shake without a tripod. The Samyang 24mm lens is optically excellent but all the technical knowhow has gone into this and it is manual only. This means that I’ve had to get used to using the histogram to check if I’m getting the correct exposure. For some photographs I also used my Fuji Finepix X100 and a Canon EF24-105mm zoom lens .
Unless I write otherwise, I have only reduced any apparent noise and/or sharpened the exercise images. I also stayed with auto white balance to maintain consistency.
4 to 6 photographs deliberately lighter or darker than average
It was early morning on a dark day. Because of all the greens I thought that a garden scene would be a low contrast image, so decided to increase exposure half a stop to see if it would suggest a brighter day.
135mm @ 16.5m f11 8.0 evaluative metering
The scene is certainly brighter but it looks wishy-washy as well. Because my eyes were full of green and red I hadn’t remembered we have some brighter, orangey roses and other flowers as well. This meant that there was clipping on the highlights and a loss of sharpness there as you can see. In Photoshop I did experiment with decreasing the exposure there which improved it but it didn’t alter the fact that the orange rose wasn’t sharp enough.
I decided to now reduce exposure half a stop
There was still slight clipping on the rose. I could have used spot meter but it was actually a very small part of the scene and I thought that , if I had done so, everything else would be much too dark.
Taken from an upstairs window with Fuji at f11 1/30th Pattern/evaluative
This was taken at minus 1 exposure because I’d realised from previous colour exercises that this can deepen the colour. Here I was endeavouring to bring out the colour after the rain.
Fuji f5.6 1/30 (minus 1) pattern/evaluative
It was dim inside my room. The histogram shows some loss of detail in the shadows on the window frame but I had reduced the exposure through focus on the pale card as I wanted to bring out its design.
Differing exposures on the same scene
Close-up of roses. All 135mm @1.7m. f11 evaluative.
a) 1 second
d) is the one that the camera measured as at the correct exposure. I prefer e) and, again, this confirms what I discovered in the colour exercises that slight under-exposure brings out a deeper colour.
All taken using Canon EF24-105mm zoom lens from a distance of 6.5 metres with evaluative metering. The lens is my husband’s – the first day I’ve used it and I like it. Unfortunately he says he won’t let me keep it because it’s his everyday lens. We did a quick swap because he wanted to use my 14mm Samyang lens.
40mm f8 1/30
The camera showed this was the correct exposure, but I could see highlight clipping on the histogram which was the bright sky between the tree branches, the road, church path and edges of gravestones.
35mm f8 1/25
I moved slightly, also widening the lens a little in attempt to reduce the highlight clipping, which worked to some extent.
40mm f8 1/50th
I decided to expose for the sky this time and then recompose. The trees now look dark and heavy though and there was still a little highlight clipping.
This is a re-working of 6c.In Adobe Bridge I used the recovery slider to deal with the highlight clipping; fill light to deal with the shadows and raised the exposure level very slightly. I then created an inverted ‘S’ in levels and increased centre luminosity in Nik Color Efex Pro.
Inside St Nicholas Church, Pyrford, Surrey, which is C11th and small and dim inside.. I used a Samyang 14mm lens at f8. I’m sure now that I could have used 5.6. This is a new lens and I’m only just getting used to its properties and the fact that it hasn’t got a full electronic link with my Canon camera.
I got quite obsessed with this shot. A while ago I visited Canterbury Cathedral and took a shot in the cloisters where it was dim inside but a lot of light coming in from the quadrangle. It had been a quick shot of two choristers in red gowns so there wasn’t enough time to really think about the exposure. Afterwards I decided that the perfect shot would have been where I exposed for the light but had a fill in flash to cope with the dark. Of course, I would have needed a tripod as well. A difficult manoeuvre still though for a chance shot.
On this occasion, I had the tripod and plenty of time but I still couldn’t get it right!
4 seconds on evaluative. You can see how over-exposed it is and all the detail has been lost from the window (middle of the day and light coming strongly through it.) I can see a lot of the detail on the runners and pews though.
0.6 on evaluative and there is now a little more detail on the window.
0.4 and I decided to use spot metering on the window this time. This histogram still showed highlight clipping.
¼ on spot. There was less highlight clipping but detail is very lost lost in the shadows.
I decided to use my Photomatix software and firstly attempted HDR using the first image, middle and last but it looked quite odd. Then I did an exposure fusion. This would have worked except that I’d forgotten that I’d readjusted my camera after the first shot so there was too much ghosting. I had to put the first image to one side and then do an exposure fusion using a different image.h
This is the result:-
I think this is too light and it doesn’t give the same feeling that I get when I’m actually in the little church.
After this I worked on 7d to see what would happen when I used the burn tool on the window:-
24-105mm lens @ 24m. f11 1/125. Here I diverted from the exercise brief to experiment and used the same photograph, altering the exposure in Adobe CR. I did this on the assumption that, if the exposure was correct to begin with there wouldn’t be highlight clipping.
Original exposure. Exposed for the sky and the church spire.
+1 exposure. It looks ‘washed out’ and the spire is pale.
24-105mm lens @ 28m
this was exposed for the sky and some detail has been lost in the shadows.
I used the same photograph and didn’t alter the exposure levels. Instead I used fill light in Adobe CRto see if I could gain more detail in the shadows and levels on auto, plus some tonal contrast in Colour Efex Pro.
I learned quite a lot from this exercise:-
- Some underexposure works well on flowers and foliage as it brings out the colour.
- Over-exposure (and consequent clipping) affects the sharpness of an image so it’s best to use spot exposure metering on brighter parts and then deal with the shadow detail in processing.
- If the highlights are too clipped then playing around with exposure in adobe CR won’t bring back detail that wasn’t there in the first place..
- Large extremes of contrast are difficult. You either have to decide which is more important and expose accordingly or use bracketing. Exposure fusion can work quite well if you’ve used a tripod and don’t alter the position of the camera.
- With regard to the gloomy church and bright window – I could have exposed for the window and then used soft fill-in flash maybe at each side of the pews if I had the apparatus. That would be more complicated.
- I made life complicated for myself by using several different, new, lenses.
6th September 2011