Exercise 4.5


“Make a Google Images search for ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’, or any ordinary subject such as ‘apple’ or ‘sunset’. Add a screengrab of a representative page to your learning log and note down the similarities you find between the images.

Now take a number of your own photographs of the same subject, paying special attention to the ‘Creativity’ criteria at the end of Part One. You might like to make the subject appear ‘incidental’, for instance by using juxtaposition, focus or framing. Or you might begin with the observation of Ernst Haas, or the ‘camera vision’ of Bill Brandt.

Add a final image to your learning log, together with a selection of preparatory shots. In your notes describe how your photograph differs from your Google Images source images of the same subject.”

Here’s a google image search for ‘shoe(s)’


What’s immediately apparent is most shoes are displayed on a white background, as a pair, with no other distractions. Sometimes the shoes are worn by someone, but not that often. Although the purpose of the image is probably clear, its fair to say they are a little boring!

My experiments with shoes mostly revolved around my available footwear, which is a pair of boots and flip flops. So for the sake of accuracy, heres a couple of specific searches


Flip flops are a bit more fun – I like the image with the row of them on a washing line.

My image

I just had fun with this. It was good to focus on being playful rather than thinking about whether I was using the camera correctly.


As it turns out, wearing your flip flops on your arms isn’t that effective. I liked the idea of garden a ornament wearing my boot, or of course a garden bench. These are my favourites:





Exercise 4.4

“Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form. For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body, rather than a man-made object. Man-made or cultural artefacts can be fascinating to light but they also contain another layer of meaning requiring interpretation by the photographer; this exercise is just about controlling the light to reveal form…”

This exercise was very challenging for me. I’m keen to learn how to use artificial lighting, but of course its a very technical subject for a beginner, and I really struggled.

Here’s the contact sheet…we were asked to sketch our lighting set up, but it seemed just as easy to photograph it.

ContactSheet-001 ContactSheet-002

I’ve picked out a few pictures here to show my lighting set up. For my first attempt, I mostly used one light, with a white paper background, and card covered with tin foil.


Overhead light obviously reduces shadow


Lit from the side, I could vary the depth of the shadow – its quite gentle in this shot


Experimenting with the distance of the light source…


Changing the direction




The addition of a very small fill light



For the second attempt, I added a second light, in the shape of a head torch (no, I wasn’t wearing it!) and a cloth background. The head torch was brighter than I expected for its small size, so I rather lost control of it as a fill light, which was my original intention.


As you can see, it was possible to direct the lighting into the shadow of the pebble


In your notes try to describe any similarities between the qualities of controlled lighting and the daylight and ambient artificial light shots from Exercises 4.2 and 4.3.”

Although the types of lighting we have been looking at are very different, there are some common factors we can see emerge. The stronger the light source, with a high contrast between light and shadow, the more we can see form. If the light is quite diffuse, the effects are more subtle, and objects can appear flatter. Direct overhead light from either midday sun or a lamp causes a small pool of shadow. Whatever the light source, the laws of physics apply!




Exercise 4.3

“Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term). The correct white balance setting will be important; this can get tricky –but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour temperatures in the same shot. You can shoot indoors or outside but the light should be ambient rather than camera flash. Add the sequence to your learning log. In your notes try to describe the difference in the quality of light from the daylight shots in Exercise 4.2.”

Before beginning, I had a look at the work of some photographers.


Richard Silver – this caught my attention, as it seems to represent a transition between the previous exercise (when we were asked to photograph a scene throughout the day), to this current one – working with artificial light. This image moves from daylight, to an atmospheric night time scene – using both natural and artificial light. The slices perform a really effective sweep of different light and colour textures, combined in one picture.



Andy Frazer – Although there are plenty of images showing headlights as streams of light, I think the composition of the blank background, the upright posts, and curved road are particularly effective. The action appears suspended in stillness.



Karekin Goekjian – A more staged nighttime scene, beautifully atmosheric. I feel we are peeking at an instant that forms part of a mysterious narrative. The lighting is warm in colour, and the texture of the building appears soft, drawing us into the picture.


It was suggested we look at Brassai, who was particularly known for his pictures of night time Paris. He seems to have been drawn to both urban landscape and character studies, with beautiful dramatic lighting.


I think many of the images look like film stills, particularly film noir. This shot from ‘The Third Man” echoes Brassai’s work.



Back to Brassai. Here you can see our interest is drawn to the focal point of the picture by using very high contrast between darkest darks, to sharply bright highlights. The midtones are secondary – they are not part of our main focus, and are present in the lesser parts of scenery.





A totally different style comes from Sato Shintaro. This is a bright, vibrant modern image, the colours jostle for our attention, its a lot for the eye to take in, and we may find our eye moving restlessly through the image, just like the energy of the city depicted in this scene.



By way of a massive anti-climax, here’s my work…

As you’re probably bored of me saying by now, I’m new to all this. I decided to keep things relatively simple and experiment with dramatic lighting using candles and solar powered fairy lights.

I wasn’t sure how to capture candle light, in that the low lighting requires enough exposure, but the slow shutter speed meant the flame wasn’t that sharp. I don’t feel I have solved this dilemma but it was interesting to try. It was good to see which ideas worked as I explored this theme. My least favourite was candles against coloured fabric background. But I noticed that candles on a dark background (such the electric hob, with a dark vertical background) looked the most dramatic so I ran with this.



My best bits…These are the images I’ve selected as being the most interesting or effective.

For this row of candles, I was paying attention to the light meter, however, I wanted to be more dramatic with even less mid tomes, so for the next image I let the exposure drop down to being underexposed.


Although this is now very dark – and my light meter wasn’t happy, I feel this makes for a more striking (if not terribly original) image.

1/40 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 800


Again, no points for originality, but I was pleased with this one, as this continues the theme of the reflection caused by the candle flame. I like the utter blackness surrounding the light.

1/15 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 800


This took a while to set up, and I have to thank my partner for the idea! This is taken looking through a glass and metal table, with the lights positioned on a pile of objects (a cookery book, bowl, and metal tray) to get the correct height. I’d like to think this has resulted in a rather interesting and atmospheric image?!

0.3 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 800


Here I was experimenting with holding the candle. Hopefully you can see just enough of my hand to make this image effective.

1/6 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 800


This was tricky to take, as I was juggling how to position my arm effectively. You can see the little lights cast a red glow onto my skin.

1/6 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 800


I think this one works slightly better, as my hand is a little more curved around the lights, my intention was to make them look like they were falling.

1/6 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 800


Lastly, because of the red glow on my skin, I decided to alter the colour just to see how this would alter the appearance of the image.

Here it is in black and white (with a little tweaking using curves)


And a change of colour


So have I captured ‘the beauty of artificial light’? Hmm. Well, yes to the best of my ability! Improvements? Greater originality would be good, and of course better developed technical skills. I think this could be developed further by using a greater variety of lighting (such as different coloured lights) or shooting a scene that has been shot with artificial lighting, where the subject is not principally the light itself, but more about the effect it creates on both objects, and the mood of the scene.





Exercise 4.2

“In manual mode take a sequence of shots of a subject of your choosing at different times on a single day. It doesn’t matter if the day is overcast or clear but you need a good spread of times from early morning to dusk. You might decide to fix your viewpoint or you might prefer to ‘work into’ your subject, but the important thing is to observe the light, not just photograph it. Add the sequence to your learning log together with a timestamp from the time/date info in the metadata. In your own words, briefly describe the quality of light in each image.”

I think viewing light for the purposes of photography overlaps with art/painting quite a lot. A flat image isn’t much good for reference, contrasting tone really helps to show form. Returning to the same image in different light makes you think of Monet’s haystack series. He was clearly deeply absorbed in observing the quality of light each time he painted these.

Monet Haystack Series

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to start my photo sequence at dawn, which I understand is an important time of day for photography, but I have done my best to observe the light from the morning to dusk.

Taking images of the same subject and paying attention to the light meter was excellent practise for me to begin to grasp how to make the appropriate adjustments. As the day progressed, I was beginning to find it more natural to check the light meter through my viewfinder (I could then easily twiddle the dial to alter shutter speed without moving my eye away away from the scene). After shooting I then referred to the histogram, which is becoming a useful tool rather than a baffling piece of data.

9.30 AM 

1/400  f 9  ISO 400

The light appears a little flat here, but in fact this is due to my poor photography skills – there were shadows present I just didn’t capture them! I feel this is the least accurate picture in terms of what I was seeing in real life.


11.30 AM

1/200  f18 ISO 400

The weather has worsened a little, and the quality of light was genuinely more dull here. You can see the sky is more grey



1/200 f18 ISO 400

I’m quite pleased with this picture. The weather has brightened again, and you can see the sun is high in the sky from the shadow cast by this tree.



1/320 f18 ISO 400

And we’re back to overcast again. You can count on British weather. I feel the greys look ‘richer’ in this image though and there is an amount of drama (perhaps?!)


5.30 PM

1/250 f20 ISO 400

I think my ability to get the exposure right has hopefully improved as the day has progressed. Here you can see the sun has moved to the left, as the shadow is now falling to the right and has lengthened. It seems to me the colours look ‘true’ with a full range of lights and darks.


7.30 PM

1/4000 sec;   f/3.5;   ISO 400

Dramatic evening light, with longer, deeper shadow. I upped the shutter speed too much, which has resulted in this being underexposed…


Here’s the histogram. I’m still experimenting with aperture and shutter speed to see the different results


8.20 PM

1/30 sec;   f/11;   ISO 400

No spectacular sunset – and if there was I’d need to rotate to my left. But you can see subtle orange tones, and a sliver of light on the corner of the house and catching the top of the tree.


8.50 PM

1/30 sec;   f/7.1;   ISO 800

According to the internet, sunset is about 8.50pm. Everything has gone grey now, and I’m not sure its quite so easy to guess what time of day this is.



1/30 sec;   f/3.5;   ISO 800

Its just beginning to get dark, and the lamp post is starting to glow. Consequently this is my last pic of the day. Here the image has a bit more richness to it again. The darks are quite velvety, and with light becoming scarce, the tree becomes closer to a silhouette.


This has been an interesting day. By this time I have earnt the reputation amongst my neighbours as being that weird woman who just moved in. Taking multiple photos of a 1970s cul-de-sac does look a bit odd. Happily enough I met a new neighbour this morning who introduced himself as Clive. He didn’t ask what I was doing.

I’m sorry I missed sunrise (currently about 5.50am, it being the height of summer)… I promise to pop out another day if I have insomnia(!) Despite missing this crucial opening part of the sequence, its actually been surprisingly good to pay so much attention to the day unfolding, even from such an ordinary viewpoint.


Exercise 4.1

  1. “Set your camera to any of the auto or semi-auto modes. Photograph a dark tone (such as a black jacket), a mid-tone (the inside of a cereal packet traditionally makes a useful ‘grey card’) and a light tone (such as a sheet of white paper), making sure that the tone fills the viewfinder frame (it’s not necessary to focus). Add the shots to your learning log with quick sketches of the histograms and your observations.”
  2. Set your camera to manual mode. Now you can see your light meter! The mid- tone exposure is indicated by the ‘0’ on the meter scale with darker or lighter exposures as – or + on either side. Repeat the exercise in manual mode, this time adjusting either your aperture or shutter to place the dark, mid and light tones at their correct positions on the histogram. The light and dark tones shouldn’t fall off either the left or right side of the graph. Add the shots to your learning log with sketches of their histograms and your observations.”

    Auto Mode

    1) A White Wall. You can see that the histogram is actually a little off centre here, but it was a very sunny day. To be honest it wasn’t until afterwards that it occurred to me that I could have set the white balance to direct sunlight, I’m guessing this might have helped.


    2) Grey Paving. In our notes we are told that a variation in tone can cause a slightly wider histogram – and here it is


    3) Black Trousers. The histogram is firmly in the middle, and the trousers appear bleached out compared to their ‘real life’ colour.


    Manual Mode

    Well, I’m sure for many actual photographers having proper control is really their preferred way of working, however for me, I’ve never used it before and its a bit daunting! Happily the way the course is written, everything has laid the ground work for me to take off the ‘training wheels’, so here I go…

    1) A White Wall. 1/640  f 6.3 ISO 400

    Wow! I can’t believe the difference. This is SUCH useful information both for this course and more broadly for my student work… Whenever I have photographed artwork,  I’ve never understood why the paper always looks grey. The alternative is of course to use the scanner, but this sometimes bleaches out the detail, and you can lose subtlety. Back to photography – the histogram is peaking right at the limit, and I don’t know if I have overdone it here, but you can still see the texture of the wall and some variation in tone.


    2) Grey Paving 1/640  f 6.3 ISO 400

    I kept the settings the same to understand how this works for a mid tone – and here’s a nicely centred histogram to match


    3) Black Trousers  1/640  f 6.3 ISO 400

    This first image is taken without changing settings, so I could understand more fully what is happening. Obviously its now very dark and all detail is lost, which is echoed in the sharp spike of the histogram.


    I did just explore whether it was possible to rescue this in photoshop – it was, but of course I want to learn how not to rely on post processing


    Here’s my second picture which is 1/40  f 36  ISO 400 and I think this is reasonably successful


    And a final experiment 1/40 f 9 ISO 400 The histogram is a sharper spike, and I suspect technically this is too dark, however it is very close to the actual trousers in real life


    I have learnt a lot from this exercise, as I’ve been struggling to understand how to draw on the information provided by a histogram. I gathered that although some advice tells you a ‘perfect’ histogram is one very like the centre curve of the grey paving, but it depends on the subject. So far I have had the option to leave the White Balance on auto, or change the setting – but with variable results. I haven’t got to grips with exposure, and some of my previous images have been underexposed. This is my first glimpse of how to gain better control – I don’t feel for a second I have fully grasped it, but its an important part of my learning process. I hope to build on this now as I mov through the rest of the course.