Friday, 7 June 2013

Exercise: Variety with a low sun

This exercise was tremendous fun.  I had the foresight (makes a change) to jump to this exercise while still working on part 3 of TAOP.  I went with a group from the RPS Documentary and Visual Journalism (DVJ) group to photograph Brompton Cemetary at the beginning of March.  The lighting was perfect throughout the day; it made a change from constant overcast and rain!  As could be expected on such a day, the cemetary was heaving with photographers and sometimes had to wait to let another photographer take their photo!

The DVJ always has a theme to their outings, in this case the task was to produce either a book or record cover.  My effort is below:
With one exception, I have presented the set for this exercise as B&W as I considered this medium to be most appropriate for the subject matter and would also best illustrate the objectives of this project.  In preparing the final images I have also used Lightroom's B&W filters to generate the look which I desired.

The objective of this exercise is to demonstrate some of the advantages of shooting when the sun is low.  The aim is take a number of photographs to demonstrate the following:

  • frontal lighting, with the sun directly behind the camera;
  • side lighting, with the sun to the left or right;
  • back lighting, shooting towards the light; and
  • edge lighting, where the edge of the subject is lit.
Frontal lighting

I find that frontal lighting can make the subject appear very flat and two dimensional, as illustrated in the first of my images below:
ISO 400, f/9.5, 1/250, Blue filter
I had to step to one side in order to avoid my shadow appearing in the image, so it is not quite with the sun behind the camera.

An alternative shot which works better with this lighting is below.
ISO 200, f/4, 1/1500, Orange filter
Nevertheless, this is still somewhat two dimensional, when looking at the detail, much of the impact being due  to my choice of f-stop which has a limited depth of field.

Side lighting

For the first of my images I selected much more of a landscape, rather than a detail shot.  

ISO 400, f/9.5, 1/350, Blue filter
The Collonades which sit atop the catacombs and surround the 'Great Circle' in the cemetery are a dramatic feature.Here the side lighting, enhanced by the use of the blue filter, brings drama to the scene.  The blue filter also enabled me to retain the brick detail in the highlights.

This led me to consider another use of side lighting, that of using the shadows and highlights themselves to create the design.
ISO 400, f/19, 1/125, Blue filter
Again in the Collonades, this time observing the pattern created by the low sun.

One use of side lighting, which I like particularly, is to bring out the surface detail of an object and this is illustrated below.
ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/1000, Orange filter
Here the texture of the roughly hewn cross is enhanced by through side lighting.

Back lighting

Shooting towards the light, typically creates a silhouette where the shape of the object / subject is clearly seen.  This I have demonstrated in the shot below:
ISO 200, f/4, 1/4000, Yellow filter
In order to avoid lens flare, I positioned the sun behind the cross, and exposed, overall, for the sky, which I further darkened using a yellow filter.

The following image is the only one in the set which is in colour, but this is to demonstrate another feature of back-lighting.
ISO 200, f/4, 1/2000
Here, I have used back-lighting to enable the glow of the yellow leaves, against the backdrop of the crosses, by having the light shining through them.

Edge lighting

With the subject back-lit, the object here is to create a rim light effect around the subject.  This is not the easiest lighting to show as lens flare becomes a problem.
ISO 400, f/11, 1/90, Blue filter
 The effect here is to isolate the subject from the background.

ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/500, Blue filter
Again, the cross is further removed from the background by the rim of light outlining its left side.

Use of low light proves extremely fruitful in providing drama as well as giving a greater degree of form and texture to the subject.  This is certainly an aspect which I have enjoyed demonstrating.

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