Monday, 29 April 2013

Exercise: Measuring Exposure Part 1

Lighter or darker

For this exercise we were asked to produce between 4 and 6 photographs which are deliberately lighter or darker than average and to explain why these were shot in that way.  Metering for these images was all in camera using evaluative metering.
ISO400, f/4.5, 1/30 sec +2 stops
I just loved the way that these two ladies, travelling on London’s DLR, maintained a separation between themselves and each maintained a totally disinterested “blank” look.  Both are protective of their bags, and also keeping to themselves with their encircling, joined hands denoting their space.  There is tension between them, clearly wishing to maintain the space between them.  I gave a +2 stop exposure here because of the bright daylight behind them, but I also wanted to burn out the view out of the window to give a starkness to the background which eliminates any distractions.
ISO 200, f/4.5. 1/180, +1 stop
These fun mannequin heads, I found at an outdoor market in Greenwich.  Here I needed to compensate for the backlighting, hence the additional exposure given of +1 stop.
ISO 100, f/8, 1/350, +1/2 stop
This and the next image I found by chance in Greenwich, but they were ideal to illustrate the point regarding the need to compensate positively or negatively depending on the subject.  The light meter is designed to work to an 18% grey average, so where there are tones which are at either end of the scale, then they will both tend towards a grey.  The Curlew Rowing Club plaque is light, almost white in colour, so standard exposure rendered it a murky grey.  I overexposed initially by 1 stop and then by 1/2 stop, selecting the latter as I lost detail in the higher compensation value.
ISO 100, f/8, 1/250, –1 stop
Here the plaque for the Globe Rowing Club, was a dark slate and the standard metered exposure rendered it a light grey, which it was not.  Applying compensation of –1 stop, brought it closer to how it was.
ISO 200, f/9.5, 1/125, +1/2 stop
Another backlit image, this of the MS Stubnitz, which is a converted East German freeze and transport vessel of the GDR fishing fleet, built in Rostock.  It is now, surprisingly an arts and music venue using the three converted cargo holds.  As it was backlit, even on a dull day, an extra 1/2 stop was of benefit, particularly in keeping whites ‘white’.
IMG_8472 ISO 400, f/4.5, 1/180, –1 stop
A black monument to Chopin on London’s Southbank.  As it is black, the meter tends the exposure to a standard grey.  Even though I gave –1 stop compensation I feel this was not enough in order to achieve the rich black, however reducing the exposure further was likely to result in loss of detail.
ISO 1600, f/13, 1/30, +1 stop
The skateboard park in London’s Southbank.  I love this place, the graffiti is so vibrant and it is certainly not static.  Here I wanted to give greater vibrance to the graffiti and lightness in the dark areas at the expense of the outside, where I am comfortable that the spectators are reduced to light shapes. IMG_8617
ISO 200, f/6.7, 1/45, +1 stop
Stratford station.  Although overcast, this was very much like being inside a giant light tent and I wanted to keep the colours vibrant.  The silver of the train and the light grey skies, were pushing the standard meter reading to an underexposure, hence I applied a full 1 stop overexposure.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Albert Watson

This photographer's name came up at the weekend.  I had to admit to not having heard of him and hung my head in shame.  There are simply too many photographers out there.  The reason his name was mentioned was because he was a master of using a single light as a source in the studio.  This gives great drama and high contrast.

The Wikipedia entry tells me that Albert Watson was born in 1942 in Scotland.  He is well known (except by me) for his fashion, celebrity and art photography.  In his fashion work he has shot over 200 covers of Vogue around the world and 40 covers of Rolling Stone magazine since the mid-70s.  Photo District News named Watson as one of the 20 most influential photographers of all time, along with Richard Avedon and Irving Penn.

The best way to introduce his work is through a video I found on YouTube, produced by Phaidon Press.  It is titled Albert Watson reflections, London 2010 on the occasion of his being awarded the RPS' Centenary Medal in September of that year.

Albert Watson reflections, London 2010

There is also an excellent website which is a showcase for his photographs and it can be found at:

Albert Watson website

Looking at his images I have selected a few to illustrate some aspects of his use of light.  Interestingly, he mentions this in his reflections in the video.

In the photograph of Steve Jobs below, looking just at the lighting on the subject, it appears to be a single light , say at 45 deg to the left and above the camera position.  This type of lighting gives both form and texture and is accepted by the viewer because it mimics the outdoor world, where there is a single light source called the sun!

Steve Jobs
This is a very clean, and 'standard' portrait, using quite a classical approach to lighting.

Moving on to another classical "look" portrait, is that of Uma Thurman.
Uma Thurman
This looks as though just a single light is used, with a snoot. perhaps, to concentrate the light, giving that spot on the face.  I think that the light on the hair and arms is likely, as well, to be from that source.

One of his favourite models, it seems, was Kate Moss and there are several images of her to be easily found in the sources I have used.

Kate Moss
This contrasty image probably used two lights either side of  and above the camera at 45 deg to the subject. I would not normally expect this effect using that setup, which would generally create a flat, shadowless look.  This contrast was possibly achieved  achieved with using oil on Kate Moss' face, creating high reflectance and therefore contrast.  It is certainly not a typical "fashion" shot.

Another Kate Moss image is

Kate Moss

Back to the single light, in this one, I think, to the right of and above the camera at about 45 deg to the subject.  Possibly a light on the backdrop to lighten it.

A photograph which has an interesting story behind it, as told by Watson in his reflections video linked in References, is that of Albert Hitchcock.  Its quite likely that this portrait boosted Watson's career.

Alfred Hitchcock
Again a single light on the subject, above and in line with the camera.  The background appears uniformly lit which suggests a light either side

To me, Albert Watson's work is like looking at a primer on lighting as well as creativity in setting up a portrait.  For my future studio work I shall certainly be taking inspiration from Watson's work.  In "Reflections" he says that he is always learning, trying to do something different each day, to be more creative.  This is something I will aspire to be doing myself.


Facebook Page

Albert Watson website

Albert Watson reflections, London 2010

The World of Photographers

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

TAOP Part 4: Light

Time to make a start on this part as I have very little time in which to complete part 4.  The introduction to this section in the course manual covers light as "the raw material of photography" and then leads on to "The intensity of light".  Here there is a general discussion of measuring the brightness of light and easily translating it onto a scale which can be used practically to provide the appropriate exposure when taking a photograph.  There is also a brief discussion of sensor sensitivity which is measured in ISO numbers as well as histograms.  These latter two subjects I will expand on further later in this blog.

Measuring Brightness

At this point I reached out for my little-used camera manual to remind myself what metering patterns are available.  Being rather lazy, I generally use what Canon refer to as 'evaluative' metering and this does seem to work well in most circumstances, though when working with speedlights, whether in the home studio or out in the field, I use a hand held meter.  As I have been using hand held meters for some time, I thought that I'd cover those off first.

Hand held meters

First of all, on of the major advantages of using a hand held meter is that it becomes possible to take incident light readings.  Why is this important and when should an incident light reading be taken?  An incident light reading measures the amount of light falling on the subject and this gives an accurate reading to be used in determining exposure.  Such a reading is independent of the texture and colour of the subject, which means that it is not necessary to make adjustments to take those into account.  It is appropriate here to touch on how meters are calibrated, regardless of whether they are internal to a camera or hand-held.  The basic principle which is adopted in metering the brightness of a scene is to reduce it to an 18% reflectance grey card.  This has considerable significance where the subject is predominantly at one or another end of the scale, ie either black or white.  A black surface will cause the meter to calculate an exposure some times up to 2 stops higher than required and a white scene, such as snow goes the other way and causes up to 2 stops  under exposure, giving rise to grey snow scenes.  An incident light reading is independent of these factors so more likely to give you an accurate exposure.

There are practical considerations, however, and it may not be possible to take an incident light reading in most circumstances, so I use it primarily for studio work, whether by flash or other light sources, and also portrait and close up work outdoors.  My first hand held meter was a Weston Master V, which is currently not working, however in doing this research, I discovered a company which repairs these meters, so I may well do so.  What did it look like, well, somewhat like this:

The white plastic attachment seen in this photo is called an "invercone" and it fitted over the area where the selenium cell receptor was located.  This is shown in the photo below.  Using the invercone was how incident light was measured.  Reflected light measurements were made without this attachment, pointing the receptor directly at the subject.

The hand held meter which I currently use is an Sekonic Flashmate L-308S, which is shown below:

The digital display and multiple functions, make this a very versatile tool despite being one of the cheaper models.  In the picture above, the white area is a "lumisphere" which is used for taking incident light readings in the same way as the Weston.  The main advantage of this type of lightmeter is its ability to take readings of flash output.

For metering small areas, referred to as spot-metering, I recall using at college a Pentax Spotmeter V which looked like this:

A rather strange device which incorporated a viewfinder which you used to find the "spot" you wished to meter.

In-camera metering

Reading the manual for my camera, the Canon EOS 5D mark II, I find the following on a page describing the Metering Mode:

Not a wonderful scan on my part, but it illustrates the point.  There are 4 metering modes, all with specific attributes, well described in the illustration.  I have a tendency to use the default which is the evaluative mode, but this is not necessarily the most appropriate in all circumstances.  Having said that, it all depends on how much you get to know your camera.  In theory, partial and spot metering will provide the best exposure values where you are looking to apply your own compensation, for the scene.  Evaluative does many calculations across a number of zones and it could well be applying compensation, so adjusting further may not make much sense.

As the course text suggests, different scenes require different treatment and an understanding of how the metering works in the specific camera in use so that appropriate compensation, if any is required, can be applied at the time of taking the image.