Sunday, 14 October 2012

Exercise 40 Shiny surfaces

The final exercise in Light looks at the perils of photographing shiny surfaces and dealing with reflections.  The set up required was a basic one with the camera aiming directly downwards at a flat and shiny object, in my case a cake slice, set on a black background.  I used one of my constant lights set as lose to the camera as possible to illuminate the metal surface; I used the light rather than flash as it was far easier to be able to see the reflections in the metal in real time rather than the trial and error of the flash approach.

The first series was taken with the setup as shown below (the light was moved around) and it produced a clear reflection of the camera and the tripod leg with its green covering.
Initial setup
Light by camera.  No diffusion
I then moved the light to be opposite the camera and facing it one metre away; the light was angled down at the metal by about 45 degrees and I expected this to generate a lot of reflection as the camera was within the family of angles where this would be anticipated.  As expected, this made things worse and gave a clearer reflection of the both the camera and the tripod leg.  My next shot had the light held at ground level with a very low angle of illumination which again produced a lot of direct reflection although it did light the side of the handle rather more. 
Light opposite camera.  No diffusion
Light at floor level.  No diffusion
I now introduced a cone made from heavy grade tracing paper and which went snugly around the lens and reached the floor to envelope the cake slice as shown below.  The objective was to diffuse incident light and cut off or reduce reflection in the metal, although it was always going to be possible to see the reflection of the lens, as it was directly above the reflective surface.  The light for the first shot was right next to the camera, looking directly downwards at the metal. 
The tracing paper had a significant effect on the image and the reflection of the tripod leg was completely eliminated, although the reflection of the front of the lens could still be seen.  The reflective surface of the shiny metal took on a new quality with the tracing paper cone in place and this was the first image where the engraving in the metal could be seen.  The next two shots had the light in front and pointing down at 45 degrees and at ground level as was done from the photos taken in the absence of the cone.  This caused little change although all were far more acceptable than their equivalents in un-diffused light.
Setup with paper cone
Light by camera.  Cone in place
Light opposite camera.  Cone in place

Light at floor level.  Cone in place
Finally, I took one shot to try and light the cake slice favourably.  I had the camera looking down at an angle of about 50 degrees and the light at right angles to the metal and to the right; with this arrangement the camera was outside the family of angles likely to cause reflection.  The outcome was better than those taken following the exercise, and although not great as I didn’t spend a great deal of time on this, showed the potential for getting the right relationship between the subject, lights and camera.
No reflections (almost ..)
I am still intrigued by the infinite possibilities of lighting and am determined to do more on this outside of the course requirements.  Hopefully I will be able to put the learning into practice in taking the assignment images as I felt that I was starting to get a rudimentary grip of what was going on as I went through the exercises.

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