“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.