Thursday, 22 November 2012

ASSIGNMENT 4 Applying lighting techniques

I have spent a number of sessions playing with lights and loaves and experimenting with flash, grids, snoots, gobos, flags, small and large constant lights, candle light and natural light outside as well as various reflectors and diffusers.  I have had a great time exploring this as it is not an area of photography where I have any previous significant experience and the learning curve has been steep and profitable.  In the end I felt quite comfortable that I could set up lights and modifiers to get the effects I wanted, especially using the constant lights, and it soon became clear that the larger lights were a far better option, and with 1300 watts burning away, things were just that much easier to set up.  I thought the loaf was ultimately a good choice as it had such pronounced shape and texture with it block shape and fine irregularities on the surface.  I also tried as I went along to add a few more aspects to the shots, so introduced some simple props that I thought fitted the situation, like the wine in the candlelit shot and the knife in the shot where I eventually chopped the loaf in half (it was almost fossilised by then).

The technical details of these images are described in a previous log post, so this is all about the selected images I intend to put forward for assessment.  The first ‘shape’ shot was taken indoors and the lighting was set up such that he loaf was almost in silhouette and the background was well lit to provide a contrast with the darkness of the bread.  I felt that this worked very well as only the outline of the loaf was clearly defined, yet the identity of the subject was clear.  The second shot for ‘shape’ was taken outdoors and I wanted to try and use a rim light effect in this case such that I could show the dark loaf against a dark background – obviously only possible if the edges were picked out by the light.  A low sun and some precise deployment of gobos and flags got the effect I was after, very much aided by the shiny and baked top of the loaf catching the rays of the sun.

Shape (artificial light)
Shape (natural light)

Form’ is all about the volume or 3D aspect of a subject and I felt needed a higher camera angle and a single light left and level, with a reflector deployed front and right to add different degrees of fill until I felt I had achieved the effect I was after without knocking out the shadow detail under the loaf.  I shot an alternative to this as I thought the loaf stood on its end might be better to demonstrate the 3D effect I was after.  This was again lit from the side and left with the reflector front and right used to adjust the shadow so it was not too dark, but without taking out the shadow that created the effect of volume.  Although both do the job, I think the upright shot of the loaf is better as it uses three of the flat sides and accentuated the 3D effect.

The last shot for ‘form’ took a different approach and in this instance I cut the loaf in half and used a reflector to put light onto the left hand half and used the reflection from the knife to just lift the shadow on the right hand half (I was surprised this worked as well as it did, but the knife does have quite a large silver and shiny surface area.
Rejected :  Form (artificial light)
Selected :  Form (artificial light)
Form (natural light)
I agonised over the selection of the final image here for some considerable time.  I decided early on that the shot with the flash and the snoot plus flag that I took with the 70-200mm lens at a focal length of 200mm was the one I wanted to go with, but what sort of crop was most appropriate?  Given that I wanted to accentuate detail in the image I eventually decided to go with the crop that showed the most detailed part of the photograph where the small and hard shadows were at their most acute and there was no distraction of background or surroundings.  I chose the second shot from the outdoor series where I had set up a series of gobos and flags to restrict access of light to the loaf in quite an extreme manner, with just a slice of the low and harsh sunlight raking across the face of the loaf.  Given the cloudless sky, the sun represented a small and hard light source and the angle the bread was presented to the light really pulled out the sharp detail on the top and front.

Rejected :  Texture (artificial light)
Selected :  Texture (artificial light)
Texture (natural light)

I wanted to do this without recourse to Photoshop, so chose to go with the photographs taken indoors in candle light and outdoors in the sun.  The candle light shot was lit entirely with six candles and required an exposure of 90 seconds, but it did deliver a richly coloured image which brought out the warmth in the scene. The outdoor shot was taken quite early in the day when there is more orange in the light and again the choice of light source and direction brought colour and warmth to the loaf.

Colour (artificial light)
Colour (natural light)
So, that’s the end of Light and Assessment 4, at least until I get tutor feedback anyway.  I learnt more from this unit and building towards the assessment images than I did from any other part of the course so far.  I had done very little indoor work at all until this point and the topics explored were new to me as I explained in the introduction to this piece.  Some things were frustrating, especially the demonstration of form, which I originally felt should have been the easiest to demonstrate.  With the loaf as the subject of the assessment, it had such an obvious 3D structure that regardless of how it was shot I always felt it showed ‘form’ whenever it was photographed in full light.

Texture’ and ‘Shape’ were the most satisfying elements for me as it was possible to create such massive changes in the way the subject was lit with relatively small and subtle changes in the positions and angles of the various light modifiers.  I got a lot out of this and it is certainly an aspect of lighting that I plan to use more in my other photography rather than just being satisfied by subjects that were ‘nicely’ lit.  Light, Science and Magic was a great companion text to Light, as was Syl Arena’s Speedliter’s Handbook, both for the lighting setup diagrams and for the Canon specific guidance when using flash.  Other sources worthy of note are the Strobist blog and the lightingmods blog as well.

I have written a separate post about this, but I attended a two day Royal Photographic Society workshop on studio lighting which was tutored by Chris Burfoot.  This was an outstanding couple of days and all the concepts that I have working on during the Light module were covered, but with respect to studio photography.  Oh how wonderful it would be to have the huge Broncolor studio flashes and a Hasselblad medium format camera to use like we did on the course ….  rather over the top for a loaf of bread I guess …

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