Category Archives: Coursework

Exercise 4: Rain

For this exercise we had to imagine a magazine cover on one subject: rain. The aim was to produce one single, strong, attractive photograph that leaves no-one in doubt about the subject.
We have the whole cover space in which to place the image, which should be attractive, and preferably original.

This was not an ideal time to carry out the exercise – temperatures have reached the highest for the year, and skies are clear blue. Deciding against waiting for a downpour, I’ve instead used an image which suggests rain, which becomes stronger with the associated text.

My initial thoughts always visualised scenes looking out at the rain, but this seemed to place the focus on other elements, with the rain becoming secondary to the image.
By considering other viewpoints and focal distances, the concept of producing an image with a much narrower focus evolved.

Having researched magazine layout styles and how images were incorporated, I wanted the final look to have fairly clean edges which would act as the backdrop to supporting text.
Placement of the finished image was therefore crucial if the cover was going to look balanced, and have impact.

The image was produced by using a paint tray filled with water. Two coloured gels were used to reflect the required colour. A water dropper was placed above the tray, which was followed by trial and error to achieve the desired effect.

The final image was then positioned with enough room for the main body of text, and a clear area of colour at both header and footer sections for the remaining text.
I’ve tried to include just enough text to balance the image, but have stopped short of creating any more due to limited illustrator software. I felt more text would start to turn the cover into ‘a dog’s breakfast’, to quote a quaint turn of phrase.

The final result is shown below;


Although I’m pleased with the cover image, the font style could still benefit from a re-visit, but general placement and balance seem to work well.
The aim was to produce one single, strong, attractive photograph that leaves no-one in doubt about the subject, which I feel has been achieved in conjunction with the text.



Exercise 3: Juxtapositon

Continuing with narrative and illustration, this exercise called for an image showing a still life approach, someone with a possession, or the results of their work or hobby.
The aim was to show juxtaposition, defined as ‘the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect‘. The idea was to be portrayed in one image.

I’ve chosen a book called the ‘Time Traveler’s Wife‘ by Audrey Niffenegger, with the current cover shown below.

The story revolves around a couple who met when Clare was aged 6 and Henry was thirty-six,  who married when Clare was twenty-two, and Henry was thirty. Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into the past or future.

My intent was to use two items which highlighted the difference in age, whilst trying to retain the slightly vintage look of the original image. I also wanted to retain a similar depth of field and overall tonal range.

The chess set was selected as it’s not a game ordinarily associated with a younger age group. My next task was to find something related to a female child which could be incorporated with the chess set, rather than being set apart from it.

I tried using various toy figures but they were too close in colour scale and size to the chess pieces, which is where the idea of using the duck came from.
It is bright enough to be the main focal point in the image and larger than the chess pieces, and also manages to convey the child oriented message.

The image was taken on a Fuji XF1, and has been reduced in resolution for web purposes.
In post processing, using Photoshop CS6, a ‘cross process’ curve was applied to increase the vintage look, and background contrast.
The final result is shown below;

1/210 f/1.8 ISO 200

1/210th f/1.8 ISO 200

This is the first image I’ve taken where the placement of text also had to be considered.
This did take longer in the initial stages as the brain had to do a mental shift to include this element, but I’m pleased with the overall result.

I think that the two elements contrast well and show juxtaposition to good effect, without being too obscure. The image, because of its two opposing elements create enough intrigue for the viewer to want to look closer at the book.
The exercise has also been useful when considering future images where such a concept is required.


Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Vintage, London, UK, 2005

Exercise 2: Evidence of action

In this exercise continuing with narrative and illustration, we were required to produce one photograph in which it can be seen that something has happened.

I initially considered solid objects which naturally come to mind due to their ease of use and handling. The concept seemed easier to convey, but course notes also referred to abstract ideas and concepts.

With this in mind I’ve used two subjects, one which contains text, and the other to suggest the absence of something linked to the former.

A macro lens in conjunction with a Canon 5D has been used to create the desired overall angle and depth of field. The image has been reduced in resolution for web purposes, and is shown below;

1/10th f/3.5 ISO 100

1/10th f/3.5 ISO 100

The intent was to show just enough of the death certificate to convey what had happened, and throwing the ring box out of focus to show what it was, without it being the main focal point.
I decided not to use a tripod even though the shutter speed was very low, as I did not want clarity in too much of the text.

Initial attempts used a tighter framing of the certificate with a wedding ring as the symbol to go with the illustration, but this was too informative and the text too prominent.
The certificate not only conveys what has happened but the ring box also suggests the link between the two subjects.

This has been a thought-provoking exercise and enabled me to shift slightly out of my comfort zone which is working more with solid objects.
It has made me give more thought to what should be excluded from an image, as opposed to what should remain.




Exercise 1: A narrative picture essay

This exercise required that we set ourselves an assignment and then photograph it. The aim being to tell a story in a set of pictures, with between 5 and 15 images.
Approximately sixty images were initially taken, with a gradual culling as the final layout was visualised throughout the process.

Photos have been taken on an Olympus E-M5 with a 12-50mm lens. All images have been reduced in resolution for web purposes.

Assignment choice

Several themes were debated and two were finally selected. The first entailed a trip to a fly-in day at a local airfield, but my armoury of lens’ wasn’t really up to capturing anything at a great distance. The nature of the event also resulted in restrictive access to a number of areas which I had envisaged using.

The final layout depicts a visit to Furzey Gardens in Minstead, Hampshire.
The gardens are a mix of traditional planted areas, rustic and traditional artefacts, tea rooms, and lakes, in a rural setting.

When plotting the intended images I kept these elements in mind and have tried to include the key aspects, which can be seen below.
Although captions were required for each image, I felt that the layout was fairly self-explanatory.


I found it useful to consider the targeted audience for this narrative, and the context in which it would be used. With this in mind it has been styled in more of an advertorial layout.
Viewing all of the images taken, certain ones immediately stood out as not gelling with the overall theme. The reasons were varied, and included stark colour contrasts, overly detailed, or lacking in purpose, to name but a few.

I initially viewed the images in Microsoft Words’ Publishing layout as this gave more immediate results as to how the images worked as a set.
Viewing them in smaller scale also helped to review which images could stand alone at almost thumbnail size, and which overall could act as a centre-piece.

A more detailed explanation or each image is shown below;


IMAGE 1 – Thatch and gardens
This was selected to show the ground of the setting in conjunction with some of the structures, without including too much detail. The viewer is left to imagine the rest of the scene. I have also purposefully left images of people out to give a more tranquil feel to the set, and echo what the gardens themselves also convey.

IMAGE 2 – Close-up plant
The second image was selected for its detail and colour combination. This worked well with the surrounding images, and being of smaller scale, was necessary to enhance these qualities.

IMAGE 3 – Lake
Wanting an image taken with a longer focal length, this section of the gardens made an ideal scene. Again colours, and contrast are kept in balance with the overall set of images.

IMAGE 4 – Floral woodland
This image stood out from the rest due to the colour combination, which I felt was better suited to a larger size, and therefore have placed it centrally.
The bright green is a colour I’ve also tried to keep in the majority of images to form a more cohesive set.

IMAGE 5 – Fledgling
The gardens are a haven for wildlife which I’d hoped to capture in some way, but wasn’t hopeful.
This is a cropped image as I was unable to get too close to the subject.

IMAGE 6 – Exit sign
I was undecided whether to use this due to the pull of text on the eye. Contrast and brightness levels were adjusted to subdue tones and ensure it blended with other images rather than stand out.

IMAGE 7 – Lantern
As part of my initial research, I’d planned the picture script with shots that I aimed to capture, covering the key elements of what the gardens had on offer.
‘Traditional artefacts’ was one point, which the lantern conveyed. It’s also set against a backdrop of traditional style herbs which I’ve kept slightly out of focus to enhance the lantern.

IMAGE 8 – Cream tea
As the cafe is a key element of the gardens, the inclusion of the cream tea was a natural choice. It is also in keeping with the bright colours in the image set.

IMAGE 9 – Scarecrow
The final image is of a scarecrow or more accurately, his feet. A cropped image has been taken as it shows the key features and is better portrayed at this size. It again retains the traditional theme that the overall layout is geared towards.

Initially a plain white background was used which looked too stark. Instead I’ve used an image of a bluebell wood taken at the gardens, and reduced its transparency levels so as not to compete with the overall layout.

The exercise has been useful in researching a subject, not only to think about what images should be included, but more importantly which ones should be left out.
Visualising an audience and the context in which the layout would be viewed, was also a key learning point.

Having worked mainly with individually placed images to date, which stand on their own merits, it was interesting to consider sets of images.
Scale and placement altered the whole layout, which then highlighted images which no longer seemed a good fit.

Although course notes suggested that graphic elements within each image were not so important in this exercise, they were a factor. It is difficult to ignore them when faced with a set of pictures.
overall balance was more highlighted, for this and every other compositional element involved.




Assignment 4: Applying lighting techniques


This assignment is designed to demonstrate how effectively we can apply the different lighting techniques studied to date, by applying them to one object.  The chosen subject has to be something that can be easily moved around. The core of the assignment is to show the following qualities of the subject, one at a time, by means of the lighting, in eight separate photographs. The four themes being shape, form, texture and colour.

Initial thoughts

My first task was to clarify the definition of ‘object’, which for the purposes of the assignment, I’ve taken the literal interpretation of, which is ‘a material thing that can be seen and touched‘. This led to further deconstructing of ideas around the subject in regards to whether it could be one which could change shape and form, such as a vessel filled with water, a person, or a garment.

Having read through several of the OCA forum threads, the overall view was to avoid objects which were either too reflective or transparent, i.e. metal or glass, but apart from this, choice seemed open to personal interpretation, as long as the assignment aims could be met.

Although this made sense, I wanted to avoid the other extreme of the object being completely devoid of reflective properties. Preferring subjects with a degree of texture I initially considered things such as rope balls, rusted architectural forms and others too numerous to mention. Although all of the objects would have sufficed, I didn’t feel any particular affinity with them, and wanted something I already had in my possession which held a degree of interest or familiarity.

It was only when I was trying to clear a workable space on my desk that I moved an old box of slides recently unearthed, that I finally found my subject. I initially moved the box around and viewed it under different lighting sources to see if it would effectively show all the qualities required. The object had texture in the printed and raised text on the box itself, and the slide edges also conveyed texture well. Colour was well represented with the base of the box being a deep egg yolk yellow, and the top, an aged almost sepia based tone.

The possibility of using one or more of the slides themselves to demonstrate colour was another option, in conjunction with the object itself. Due to the subject’s transparent top, I felt it would be ideal in demonstrating both form and shape. Shape is the one theme that I’ve purposefully left until last as I felt it would present the biggest challenge. It was a very obvious and simple shape, which I felt might be difficult convey as anything other than boxy and boring. Separating the subject into individual components did concern me, and I wondered if this was twisting the remit of the assignment slightly.

Referring back through study notes, the words ‘demonstration of creativity‘ came to mind, along with ‘context‘ and ‘quality of outcome‘. With this in mind, I decided that a little dissemination was within the boundaries of the assignment brief. Apart from wanting to use a combination of natural, domestic and dedicated photographic lighting, I didn’t want to restrict myself to how many of each would be used.

My main aim was to ensure that a wide variety of lighting techniques were used to suit the individual themes. I also wanted to have fairly clean and simple lines throughout the series of images, without the background scenery overpowering the subject itself. Feedback from a previous assignment pointed to an ‘eclectic mix’ of styles, so I was keen to produce a more cohesive set of images for this one. My range of lighting equipment is quite basic, and consists of a slide projector, foil, LED camping light, and a light box.

The camera used was a Canon 5D with a tripod and cable release. The initial choice of lens was a 24-105mm but as this does not have a lens lock, it was difficult to use in downward facing shots due to lens creep. Therefore a Canon 50mm macro 1:2.5 was used instead. Post processing was carried out using a combination of Adobe Raw and Photoshop CS6. I’ve also just installed an X-rite colormunki display calibrator.

All images were taken in manual mode as I wanted to get more in the habit of working this way, and also to reduce the amount of post processing as a result. White balance settings were varied and are detailed against each image. Images have also been reduced in resolution for web purposes.


The definition of texture is, “the representation of the structure and minute moulding of a surface, as distinct from its colour“. My first consideration was whether to show purely texture without form or colour. A number of shots were therefore taken to see how revealing too much form or colour took the lighting emphasis away from texture. I also experimented with depth of field, and close cropping to isolate certain areas of text. The intent was to see if this would work more in tandem with the lighting technique used.

Researching the work of photographers who emphasised texture, I once again came across Edward Weston. He created richly detailed images of still life, particularly of natural forms, which tended to refer back to days when images were largely produced in black and white. This did make  comparisons difficult to make. Large format cameras were also used, so again the results are difficult to compare with today’s technology.

This led to further musings as to how photographs taken in the 1920s on less technically advanced equipment, could produce such amazing tonal ranges with their lighting techniques. Perhaps the labour intensive methods of seeing the final result instilled more determination in producing a piece of work, as opposed to the instant gratification of the digital age.

Having decided to retain colour, the required angle, and amount of detail to include in the shot, I used black velvet material as the background. The projector light was used to create the small light source needed for sharply defined shadows. In ‘Light, Science and Magic’ (2012) there were some useful lighting diagrams and suggestions for photographing reflective objects with texture. The key point being to light it sufficiently by skimming the surface, with the light source being far enough away to remain bright, but whilst still providing an even source across the object. This was also when the Inverse Square Law finally made sense.

To achieve an even light source, a piece of crumpled foil was used directly opposite the projector light to illuminate the left hand side. This caused too many highlights, so a wider aperture was then selected. By skimming the surface only, this also removed the issue of having light spilling onto the background. The raised text itself proved quite difficult to light, and took over twenty attempts. Moving the light even fractionally caused quite a dramatic shift in shadows on letters which were only around 1mm in depth.

Eventually I managed to achieve the required effect, which was to show more shadow on lettering on the right hand side in order to emphasise it, and convey less of a flat surface across the whole of the base. By cutting some of the text out on the left side, I also wanted to lead the eye towards the three main words on the right, which I think comes across. The brain automatically looks for order and closure, similar to the Gestalt laws of perceptual organisation. By showing only the text, and not overly emphasising form, I feel that any ambiguity as to which of the four themes is being demonstrated, has been achieved.

In post processing, contrast was increased and brightness was fractionally reduced.


1/125th f6.3 ISO 100 AWB

I’ve maintained the angle for the second shot demonstrating texture, as it is the flip side of the object, with the lid removed. Having experimented with just the slides themselves, I felt that the individual components should relate, at least partially to keep the set of images as a whole from becoming too fragmented. By slightly angling the object, contrast has been increased to emphasise texture, and also to reduce depth of colour which seemed to detract from the theme.

The lighting technique is set up as per the previous shot. When using the crumpled foil to reflect light back onto the object, the angle has been altered to highlight the textured area across the slide tops. This also produced deeper shadows and reduction in colour, in conjunction with the object’s angle. The most difficult aspect in this image was in maintaining an even light source across the shot, which the foil managed to overcome.

Although text can be seen in the image, I’ve selected a depth of field which reduces its clarity and therefore stops it from becoming an automatic draw on the eye. Without it the composition looked slightly unbalanced, and although colour was not a requirement in this instance, the subtle addition seems to provide the balance that it initially lacked.

In post processing, dust specs were cloned out, exposure was increased by .11, and the image was slightly sharpened.


1/50th f7.1 ISO 100. Custom white balance

The setup shot for the two images above, is shown below:TextureOneSetup A small number of rejected shots for texture are also shown below:TextureDiscarded


Form relates to the 3 dimensional quality of an object or its volume, which can be reinforced by the way in which shadow is used, and the modelling effect of the light. The object I’d chosen was a fairly simple design which in itself made it difficult to portray effectively, as the choices at first seemed limited.

As I had already taken shots of the box itself in previous images, doing the same again just seemed a repeat performance with a different angle. Demonstrating the required theme with the use of reflection was something I wanted to convey but the base of the box seemed too dense, and did not  show the translucent element that I wanted to achieve.

Fay Godwin’s ‘Pioneer Glassworks Series’ included images whose subjects were separated from the viewer by a medium which coerced you into looking through the image as opposed to ‘at’ it.
This is something which I toyed with, and one such image can be found in the reject set further on. I felt that this style was better suited to something less dense in structure to produce a more layered effect, and therefore a greater sense of form.

The lid of my object on its own was more versatile particularly when combined with the slides themselves. Its transparency when coupled with a lighter and more reflective background, produced a subtle but effective form. The backdrop of the projector screen provided the right amount of light when used with a softbox from above and to the side, at the 5.00 o’ clock position. The LED light was used for shadow-fill to create an even spread of light. The base was an upturned laptop tray which was an off white colour, and helped to reinforce the similarity in tones across the images.

Post processing included adjusting the levels, and slightly cloning out some specs of dust.
In hindsight I would have selected a more transparent slide on the right of the image as the one used is too dense. I feel it hampers the feeling of depth on that side, although conversely it may have been too obvious to have complete symmetry across the image.


1/25th f/14 ISO 160 AWB

Having recently read ‘Why it does not have to be in focus’ (2013), the idea formed of trying to create an image which portrayed the necessary quality but without the standardised sharp focus treatment that is usually depicted. I also didn’t want to end up with simply a blurred shot of something which could have been anything vaguely box-like and yellow.

Looking at the object from all angles, I realised that if I could somehow show it as though it were rotating, the sense of form could be increased.
The only turntable at my disposal was the microwave plate, so this was placed on a black glass hob next to a north facing window. The afternoon light was bright but diffused with cloud, and provided the ideal level of illumination without being overpowering against the glass.

I initially tried to capture the object without the use of a tripod as this was less restricting, but this did not retain the amount of sharpness required to view the object as a solid structure, with an adequate degree of detail. A tripod was therefore essential.

After approximately thirty shots, frustration and an inability to spin a microwave turntable without frisbeeing it into the stratosphere, almost ground the idea to halt.
After a re-think I realised that slowing the process down to achieve more of a double-exposure style shot would be more effective in demonstrating the notion of ‘form’.

After a few more attempts, one shot surfaced which conveyed the subject lit ‘almost’ as I’d visualised it. Although I was satisfied with my progress at getting the images to date right in-camera, I realised that this one was probably going to need some help in post processing.

I didn’t want to replicate the previous image with regards to the amount of reflection shown, and just needed enough to give it some grounding and provide a contrast to the left side, which hopefully increases the sense of depth.
The white lines radiating out from the same side of the image are the print of one of the hob rings, which I felt helped to convey a sense of rotation, and therefore movement and depth.

Having read through other students work, I was conscious that some had either removed colour from the object or decreased the vibrancy levels in order to emphasise  form over colour.  I did weigh up the options and consider whether this was something that would detract from the theme itself, but decided against the idea of altering the colour’s vibrancy levels or saturation. I felt that doing so was rather like pointing a large red arrow at the subject to explain what I’d done. If it didn’t work with the colour as photographed, then I hadn’t demonstrated ‘form’ very effectively.

In post processing the black level was reduced in Adobe RAW, and the image was slightly rotated. Shadows were adjusted at the highlighted edge by painting at a low opacity, and contrast was increased by +15.

.8 sec f/11 ISO 100. AWB

.8 sec f/11 ISO 100. AWB

A few of the reject shots for form are shown below:



As the object’s colour has been evident in most of the previous images, I felt that I needed to convey this quality in a different way, whilst still showing the colour ‘as strongly as possible’.
Contrasting it with a cooler and larger area of colour such as blue was the starting point, as orange is twice as luminous as blue.  Utilising the light box to brighten and lighten a blue gel provided the right balance of colours but the composition still seemed unbalanced.

I then tried placing one of the slides onto the gel which seemed to address the balance and give more focus to the colour of the box itself.
Cutting out a piece of the gel to allow the slide to be more visible also portrayed more of a supporting contrast but I was mindful that it didn’t dominate and take away the aim of the theme.

Although I was now happy with the composition and it’s outcome, getting the exposure right took a while. Initial attempts produced a flat image with no real focus on the object itself, and everything was overexposed. There were too many things for the eye to process and no real direction as to the point of the image.

Adjusting the exposure to cast the right hand side of the box into shadow took the emphasis away from this area, as it did to the slide’s border.
I felt that the blue was of a sufficiently light enough tone to contrast and support the object, without being the dominating factor.

In post processing I adjusted a few lines to even up perspective, as the composition was quite geometric. Without this the slanting edges of the gel were distracting and took the eye away from the main objective.

1/8th f/8 ISO 160. AWB

1/8th f/8 ISO 160. AWB

The second image was the most difficult, both in terms of setting it up and justifying that it conveyed ‘showing the subject’s colour as strongly as possible‘.
Colour theory was outlined in the course as working on three levels; ‘visual‘ being the most obvious, ‘expressive‘ or the emotional level which evoke sensations that can be subjective and non-visual. Finally there is the ‘symbolic‘ or cultural level, where certain colours and combinations are associated with things that we have been brought up with.

The question in this part of the assignment was whether it was necessary to include all of these elements or purely concentrate on the visual aspect alone.
Would including all of them make the image any better or more to the point, would it demonstrate the aims of the theme.

As yellow or in this case yellow/orange is a colour which can radiate light very effectively, I wanted to project an image onto the object and highlight this quality whilst still showing strongly the colour itself. My concern was whether this would distract from the main aim.

I wanted to highlight the fact that the image was projected onto the subject, but initial attempts just produced an image which looked as though the picture had been printed on it.
Retaining any degree of sharpness from a slide projected from a short distance was not possible.
I realised that I was moving away from the aim of the image. I was trying to show colour, not a sharply focussed image.

The slide was taken in 1969 – (I am the small blot on the left), on a Kodak Brownie 127 on a fairly wobbly rowing boat, so the quality wasn’t great to start with.
Once I’d let go of the image quality issue, the process of getting the lighting right became easier, although it still took infinite minuscule adjustments to the projector itself in order to show the light falling on the area directly in front of the subject.

This I felt was necessary to show that the image was projected and not printed. As the object itself wasn’t solid it was capable of portraying a range of hues, brilliance and saturation levels, depending on the type of light around it. This is what I wanted to convey with the projected image.

Again I’ve left the background completely black so as to add to contrast, and placed the slides in the box with text out of sight so that this didn’t detract from the overall aim.
My only reservation was in not using the box lid to enforce strength of colour, but as I’m trying to not continually tweak and disseminate images once completed, I’ve gone with the initial image shown below.

In post processing it was hard not to alter the projected image to bring out the natural colours intended. Instead I slightly rotated it to gain a better perspective. Exposure was increased to .05, and highlights by +1.

1/40th f/10 ISO 200. AWB

1/40th f/10 ISO 200. AWB


I had purposefully left this theme until the end as I felt it would present the biggest challenge. Although the object’s shape is simple, I was concerned that this in itself would present difficulties.
I was back to ‘boxy and boring’ in terms of ideas, and began to doubt whether it was a viable option.

Assignment notes stated that  the quality of shape had to do with the outline of an object – its edges. These are more likely to stand out more clearly if they contrast with the background, and if there is minimum detail visible in the object.

At this stage I had only a vague notion of wanting to light it from several angles, particularly from underneath to highlight the edges in some way.
It was only when I walked past my oven that I could see a way of doing this. The oven provided a ready-made shelving system, and an area which would contain light if required.

I didn’t really have a pre-conceived plan at this point, and just tried several lighting angles with the LED light, and gradually added a crumpled sheet of foil at the top of the oven to bounce light back from a lightbox placed under the object. A yellow gel finally provided the contrast and light level required. It was then just a case of fine tuning exposure levels to obtain the silhouette effect.

In post processing, the image was cropped to convey the lights extending beyond the frame and put the emphasis on the object as the solid and complete component. Contrast was increased, and levels adjusted.

1/30th f/6.3 ISO 100. AWB

1/30th f/6.3 ISO 100. AWB

Oven light setup for shape is shown below:


For the final image I wanted to use natural light, and sunset seemed an ideal choice to highlight the object’s shape.
The challenge was in trying to capture the light at just the right moment before the sun set completely.

The first few attempts were unsuccessful, partly due to the background intruding into the scene, and secondly as the sun was still too high.
Trying to take the image outside didn’t work as I couldn’t get the angle of the sun to tie in with the parts of the object that needed illuminating. Moving to the window on the first floor of my home gave a better angle, although a fairly uninteresting background.

Moving the window frame into view and throwing it out of focus provided the background contrast that I felt the composition needed, and the sun highlighting the top of the box gave just enough brilliance to light the pertinent edges of the rest of the object.

In post processing exposure was slightly increased to bring out a touch of colour in the object, without detracting from the theme.

1/200th f/6.3 ISO 100. AWB

1/200th f/6.3 ISO 100. AWB

Rejected shots showing shape are shown below:



When I first considered the lighting equipment for this assignment I was concerned at my lack of dedicated photographic lighting. At the same time I didn’t see the point in rushing out and buying equipment that I didn’t really understand the merits of.
Since completing it, I have at least gleaned a greater understanding of what can be achieved with fairly understated pieces of lighting equipment, and now have the confidence in being able to create the right lighting scenario for a range of subjects.

Conversely I can also see how additional items would have been useful. Concentrating light onto specific areas, particularly in the texture shots was difficult, or perhaps more precisely, frustrating. Visualising what you want to achieve but not being able to quite capture it without lengthy trial and error procedures was exasperating at times.

I have at least become much more intuitive throughout the course with my camera, and find myself changing settings without thinking about it too much beforehand. Working in manual mode has become easier. Although I’ve probably taken far more images in this assignment than any other to obtain the final eight, this has been due more to a perfectionist streak than technical inability

Although my choice of object was perhaps not the easiest or most conventional, I’m still glad at the choice made, due to the challenges it presented. Perhaps having an emotional link was part of this, but being able to separate it into different structures I felt gave me greater scope over a more solid and complete entity.

Procrastination on choosing a subject and then photographing it has always been a bugbear, although I’m managing to improve on this irksome trait by developing distractions which halt any over-thinking.
Instead of trying to always achieve a result, such as with the second image relating to form, I stop trying to produce results and just take shots without any prior notion of what I’d like the outcome to be. This seems to free up the creative process and spark ideas which would not necessarily have come to the fore.

I realised when thinking initially around which object to choose, that one of my preferences was in finding something  which had a ‘familiarity’ to it.
Since completing the assignment I have questioned whether this is a luxury. In a commercial environment I would need to work around whichever subject was presented, whether it was familiar, interesting or something I was particularly adverse to, within reason.

Trying to detach myself from the subject and simply select an object which would have met the aims of the assignment more easily, would have made life easier. I don’t really think though that I would have learnt as much as I did, or have been able to work around lighting problems when they arose quite so much.

I’ve repeatedly referred back to the assignment aims throughout as sometimes creativity takes over and you suddenly realise that the image you’ve just taken two hours to produce, is far off the mark in achieving the main aim. There is still a niggling doubt with the projected image on ‘colour’, although if I ask myself whether it was in the right context, and achieved its aim, then I would still have to agree that it did.

I think this assignment more than the others has developed my creativity in problem solving a situation or in expressing a quality where required.
At first, producing only eight images seemed a much simpler task than previous exercises. The very fact that a small number was required meant that ideas, lighting techniques, and subject had to be carefully considered to produce the exact result in line with the assignment aims.


Freeman, M Luck, S. (2012) The photographer’s exposure field guide. 1st ed. China: Ilex

Golden, R Craig, P. (2008) Masters of photography. 1st ed. Chine: Carlton Books

Higgins, J, Coultos, H, Gee, B (2013) Why it does not have to be in focus. 1st ed. China: Thames & Hudson

Hunter, F, Bivers, S Fuqua, P. (2012) Light science and magic. 4th ed. China: Elsevier

Bibliography 15th April 2014

Bavister, S (2007) Lighting for portrait photography. Revised edition. Singapore: Craft Print International Ltd 19th April 2014



Exercise Two: Higher and lower sensitivity

The first part of this exercise was to take similar shots at both normal and high sensitivity, in a situation that was marginal – i.e. where the mixture of light level and subject movement was only just possible.

All images were taken on a Canon 5D with a 24 – 105mm lens. A tripod was not used due to being too intrusive for most of the locations. Images have been taken in RAW format and reduced in resolution for web purposes.

The first two shots below, due to size and low resolution, look identical which slightly defeats the object of the exercise. I’m viewing them on a 24 inch screen at 100% magnification and can see differences. At ISO 100 details are slightly soft, and shadowy areas lack the colour  saturation of  ISO 640 image. Colours are also more true to the originals in the scene.
I usually shoot with fairly low ISOs, so increasing it to 640 was a walk on the wild side.

LEFT: ISO 100.  RIGHT: ISO 640


The images below are close-ups of two areas from the above images.
Again it’s only when the image is viewed at a relatively large size that visible differences become apparent. Finer details can be seen in the higher ISO image, and colours are slightly brighter.
Shaded areas also produce greater clarity.


TOP: ISO 100.  BOTTOM: ISO 640

Not convinced so far that the higher ISO has made a staggering amount of difference, I increased it to 800. I still had to enlarge the RAW image to 100% before any real visible differences could be seen. The amount of grain was quite apparent at the high ISO, and dulled highlights as a result.

LEFT: ISO 100   RIGHT: ISO 800


The shaded areas of the image suffered at the higher ISO and lighter areas show the typical speckled effect that noise produces. This was particularly evident in paler tones which are effectively covered in a grain several shades darker than the actual tone.

TOP: ISO 100   BOTTOM: ISO 800


Enlarging the following images revealed darker skin tones at the higher ISO due once again to noise levels, and paler colours appeared muddy for the same reason.

TOP: ISO 100   RIGHT: ISO 800

TOP: ISO 100.   RIGHT: ISO 800

Also enlarged, the next images have experienced loss of quality, especially in highlighted areas as before. Detail is more sharply defined at the lower ISO range, and noise levels at the higher end of the scale have the effect of darkening colours compared to the original tones.

TOP: ISO 100   RIGHT: ISO 800

TOP: ISO 100.  RIGHT: ISO 800

Below at a small scale, there is relatively little difference between the two images apart from slightly lighter tones again in the paler colours.

LEFT: ISO 100   RIGHT: ISO 800

LEFT: ISO 100.   RIGHT: ISO 800

Even enlarged, the differences are barely perceptible. Slightly less detail becomes apparent with the higher ISO in lighter tones, and conversely greater contrast between objects and structure can be seen in darker areas.

TOP: ISO 100   BOTTOM: ISO 800

TOP: ISO 100.   BOTTOM: ISO 800

I decided to try the same experiment in brighter light, and increased the higher ISO to 1600, convinced that this would show a marked difference in noise. As seen below, with the smaller size you would have to look very closely. Results show very marginal colour, and contrast differences.

LEFT: ISO 100.  RIGHT: ISO 1600

LEFT: ISO 100. RIGHT: ISO 1600

Enlarging one area does however show a greater difference in image quality with the higher ISO. The effects of noise are similar to pixelation when an image is enlarged beyond its optimal capacity.

LEFT: ISO 100.   RIGHT: ISO 1600

LEFT: ISO 100. RIGHT: ISO 1600

The overriding result is that smaller sized images at a high ISO can appear ‘almost’ identical to the ones at the lower end.
For most people who print no bigger than an A4 size, this may be a happy compromise when higher ISO settings are required due to reduced light levels.

Colour does seem to change from the original tone as ISO numbers rise, and highlighted areas darken and appear muddy, which may not be an issue for some subjects. Skin tones for example may not stand up to such high settings.

I can see that reflective surfaces may also suffer considerably as highlights are dimmed due to noise levels increasing, again effecting such things as catch-lights in eyes if portraits or people are the main subject.

For some images noise levels may not be an issue, and depending on choice of paper when printing, may even be an advantage.
The general evidence though seems to support the theory that higher ISOs and the resulting noise does reduce quality and accurate colour rendition.











Exercise Four: Light through the day

This exercise involved taking a detailed look at what happens to a view as the sun moves from dawn through to dusk. The same scene had to be photographed, and include a fairly definite subject that would catch the sunlight, even when the sun was close to the horizon.

All images have been taken in RAW format on a Canon 5D with a 50mm lens. A tripod and cable release were used throughout.
I have taken screenshots of the majority of images and shown them grouped together, as this more effectively demonstrates the changing light between shots.

The first set below were taken between 6.00am and 7.00am, with the first one showing a blue cast. Colours are still quite dense due to low light levels, and there is little sign of depth across the image. In the second one warmer tones are now present as the sun rises, and areas of contrast begin to appear.
By 7.30am colours are clearly distinguished, and contrast has increased, with long shadows developing.

6 til 7

6.00am until 7.00am

The next set below shows the light from 7.30am to 10.30am.
At 7.30am the image still shows the effect of early sunlight with warmer colours and tones, and a fairly strong blue colour in the sky.
As the sun rises, colours start to appear more bleached, are cooler in tone, and have a less dramatic variation in contrast. The sky has gone from a clear blue to almost white in comparison.

7.36am to 10.37

7.36am until 10.37am

Although the actual sky colour remained fairly constant from around 11.00am until 3.00pm, the land colours and contrast changed considerably. The image below at midday shows more saturated colours appearing as the sun moves. Contrast simultaneously increases, again adding more depth to the image, as areas show a greater degree of light and shade.



Moving into the afternoon, the next set shows the changing light from 1.30pm until 5.00pm.
The most even lighting, which showed an equal balance of contrast, and colour seemed most apparent at around 1.30pm, although the overall effect is still one of a cooler colour palette.

Moving to late afternoon the sky once again reverts to a bluer colour, and the warmer tones shown in the earlier part of the day start to appear.
The colour in roofs of buildings can be clearly seen, rather than showing just as highlights.
Contrast again seems stronger as shadows lengthen, and colour saturation begins to deepen.

1.31 to 5.01

1.30pm to 5.00pm

The final set below highlights the change in light as the sun moves towards the horizon, and were taken between 5.30pm and 8.00pm.

During the earlier part of the evening, colours and contrast appeared quite flat. Shadows are long but not a great deal of depth can be seen. This may be partly due to the angle of the sun on the scene.
By 7.30pm the low sun skimming parts of the scene bring out depth and texture in the foreground, and a greater sense of depth overall.

5.30pm to 8pm

5.30pm to 8.00pm

Of all the images my preference is for the early morning set, particularly around 7.30am, which was an hour and a half after sunrise.
Colours were rich and warm, and shadows although long, highlighted contrast between tones. Saturation of colour was also enhanced by the low sun level.

This exercise has highlighted how light effects a scene, far more than I expected. I initially viewed all images taken on a TV and scrolled quickly through. It’s only when a comparison is made in this way that the differences in an image are revealed, particularly with colour variation and tone.
It has also assisted in planning a shot by gaining a better understanding of how the overall scene will be affected by light at different times of the day.







Exercise 11: Contrast and shadow fill

This exercise required a simple still-life setup which was shot at the same level as the subject. The camera was mounted on a tripod, with a softbox as the light source placed at 90 degrees to the camera. The backdrop is a piece of black velvet.

All images have been reduced in resolution for web purposes. The camera is a Canon 5D fired with a cable release. Various white balance settings were trialled, with AWB giving the truest colour match. Settings used throughout the exercise were 1/6th f/8 and ISO 400.

Lighting setup

Lighting setup

The first two images were taken firstly without a diffuser on the light, and then with one attached.
The results can be seen below.

This produced as the course notes suggested, the greatest variation in contrast. Highlights are more noticeable in the un-diffused image, and the background. The objects appear to come forward whereas the diffused area recedes due to the greater density of shadow. Tonal variation is also greater in the diffused image.

With and without diffuser

UPPER SECTION: With diffuser.  LOWER SECTION: Without diffuser

The next part of the exercise involved placing a large white card opposite the light, approximately three feet from the subject. The was followed by moving it to 1.5ft away.
Although there were differences, the effects are minimal compared to the previous two.
When the card was moved nearer to the subject, highlights were slightly brighter, and tones richer in colour. I expected to see more of a difference between the two but maybe the black velvet backdrop has absorbed some of the additional light created.

LEFT: White card 3ft away from subject.  RIGHT:  1.5 ft away from subject.

LEFT: White card 3ft away from subject. RIGHT: 1.5 ft away from subject.

Aluminium foil was now required to cover the card, with the dull side facing out. This was then alternated with the shiny side facing out.
When viewed at this size and resolution, the differences are difficult to detect but instantly noticeable at a larger size.

The dull side produced the brighter highlights which surprised me, as I thought the opposite would be true. The greater contrast is actually derived from the shiny side, partly as the backdrop appears darker, and colours are slightly richer. The wood grain is also more apparent, again due to deeper tonal variation.

LEFT: Dull die of foil facing out.  RIGHT: Shiny side of foil facing out.

LEFT: Dull side of foil facing out. RIGHT: Shiny side of foil facing out.

Although it was not required for the exercise, I experimented with the silver and gold side of a reflector to see firstly how the silver side compared to the home-made version, and what impact the gold side had as I’ve only used this once in a portrait shot.

More light was seen with the dull side of the foil, and silver reflector, although greater contrast was marginally seen with the silver reflector.
Reflected light was almost identical between the gold and silver reflectors, but more contrast and richer tones were achieved with the gold.

LEFT: Silver reflector.  RIGHT Gold reflector.

LEFT: Silver reflector.   RIGHT: Gold reflector.

The final image was the result of crumpling the piece of foil and smoothing it out again. This was once again placed on the card, shiny side facing out. This is my preferred image of the exercise, as the lighting is even, and the subjects are separated from the background due to the darker shadows within.

It has brightened highlights and brought out detail and colour, which has given a greater sense of depth throughout the image.


Crumpled foil facing outwards

This has been a useful exercise, particularly when comparing home-made versions of reflectors with purpose-built equipment. The crumpled foil has therefore been saved for future projects.
Sometimes the results have been more subtle than expected, such as when using the white card. I would have expected a greater shift in contrast and shadow fill.

The exercise has also highlighted the way in which objects can be manipulated to recede or be  brought forward in the image, altering the general feeling of depth and form.


Exercise 10: The lighting angle

The aim of this exercise was to experiment with diffused light from different directions. The subject was to be no larger than the diffuser, be rounded and with relief, in order to show the differences in light and shadow.
The subject in this case was a polystyrene mannequin which I’ve sprayed with a stone effect paint to highlight texture. Although the effect is somewhere between leprosy and the plaque, it served its purpose.

The camera has remained in a fixed position on a tripod throughout the exercise, aimed horizontally at the subject. A mid grey coloured card was used as the background, and a softbox for the light source. All images have been taken on a Canon 5D with a 50mm lens, and have been reduced in resolution for web purposes.

I’ve used points of a clock as a reference to where the softbox was placed, which I’ve tried to keep the same distance from the subject throughout the exercise.


1 o’ clock position. Diagram powered by the Online Lighting Diagram Creator

The first five images have the light at the same level as the subject, and in the image below it has been placed at the 12 o’ clock position.
This effectively created a silhouette, with a small amount of light spilling onto the subject. Although this gives some clue to the subject’s form, the majority of the features are deeply shadowed in contrast to the remaining area. This has also created a very definitive separation from the background, rendering a very 2D feel to the subject.


1/15th f/8 ISO 100

IMAGE 2: 1 o’ clock
With the softbox in this position, only around 25% of the subject is illuminated, although this does softly highlight certain features bringing out texture, and providing an even contrast in tones to these areas.
In pp, only exposure was increased by +.33, as I’ve tried to leave settings as created in-camera.

1/10th f/8 ISO 100

1/10th f/8 ISO 100

IMAGE 3: 3 o’ clock
With the lighting coming from this position, there is a fairly even proportion of the subject in light and shade creating a split lighting effect for the lower portion of the subject.. The shadowed half although showing a degree of depth, is too dark to easily distinguish features. Conversely the illuminated area is too bright in comparison, and appears flatter and lacking in detail.

1/125th f/8 ISO 100

1/125th f/8 ISO 100

IMAGE 4: 4 o’ clock
This position is the reverse of the 1 o’ clock position. Instead of 25% being illuminated, the same proportion is now in shade.
I like the way in which light gives definition to the nose and mouth areas on the shaded side but feel it looks separated from the rest of the subject due to the lack of detail. This may be due in part to the strong light source, albeit diffused. In pp, exposure was once again increased by +.22.

1/25th f/8 ISO 100

1/25th f/8 ISO 100

IMAGE 5: 6 o’ clock
At this position the lighting is even, and separated from the background. The overall effect is quite uninspiring due to its complete lack of shadow, but I can see the appeal for commercial portrait style images where a more flattering look is required.

1/15th f/8 ISO 100

1/15th f/8 ISO 100

This position is the first one in which I could see definition which showed the form to a much greater degree. With the softbox raised and pointed down at a 45° angle there is a subtle definition between the subject and background, and a gradual increase in contrast across the subject which really accentuates the difference between each plane.

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

IMAGE 7: 3 o’ clock
At this position, although the contrast is quite strong moving from left side to right, the level of detail and definition works well. Both rounded and recessed areas are portrayed in just enough detail to show the depth of the subject.
I’ve recently come across ‘Rembrandt’ lighting in various texts, which describes the illuminated triangle of light on the cheek. I was quite pleased to see this effect in the image, however slight, and will endeavour to create it in a future project when lighting skills have been a little more fine tuned.

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

IMAGE 8: 4 o’ clock
This image is quite stark in comparison to the others, and probably my preferred one from the exercise. Shadows are mostly deep, and highlighted areas are strong, with texture very prominent. There is a good level of modelling to most of the subject, and is the most clearly defined image to date.
Levels were adjusted in pp to 5  .74  255.

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

Lighting from directly overhead has produced very uneven areas of contrast, and hard outlines. Although depth can be seen from the shadow on the cheek area, the overall effect is quite flat.
Conversely, texture is quite prominent in the areas on the cusp of light and shade.

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

Angling the light to fall more on the front of the subject has removed the feeling of depth from much of the image, and lost some areas of texture.
Underexposing may have overcome some of these issues, although the lower part of the subject would then have had deeper areas of shadow.
This image and the following one had the greatest amount of pp done due to the uneven lighting contrasts that such a lighting angle produces.
Adjustments for this image were +1 on highlights, -.27 for exposure, a levels adjustment of 3, 1, 249, and finally a linear curves adjustment.

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

Little contrast is achieved with this angle of lighting. Detail has been lost, and where highlights do exist, they are relatively blown, although this may be down more to my inexperience in working with this mode of lighting.
Pp work included +.27 for exposure, an adjustment level of 3, 1, 249, and an auto curves adjustment.

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

One outcome of this exercise which has been demonstrated, is that lighting has a relationship with both the subject and background in tandem. One cannot be separated from the other.
Choice of subject and intended outcome is also a major consideration. Where some angles of light have proved unflattering or inappropriate for this subject, they may be ideal for others.
It has also demonstrated that although diffuse light spreads an even amount of light over the subject, it does not always bring out the best qualities, or portray the subject as intended.












Exercise 6: Cloudy weather and rain


The first part of the exercise required the same photograph to be taken in sun and then shade, with the white balance kept to daylight. Variations in exposure and other differences were to be noted.

All images have been taken in RAW format on a Canon 5D, with a 24-105mm, and a 50mm lens. Resolution has been reduced for web purposes.

The first two images are of a stone garden ornament, and have been taken within a few minutes of each other.
Colours in the first image taken in sunlight, appear warmer – it was only by selecting the eye dropper tool in Photoshop, to more clearly see the colour palette, that the difference is quite so apparent. In sunlight the stone appears to consist of brown tones, whereas in shade they are more grey.

Shadows are darker, and therefore contrast is more noticeable, particularly around the edges of the object, which add depth to the form.
Highlighted areas naturally stand out from the background, again adding depth to the image. It is also easier for the eye to key in on specific areas as there is a greater separation of tones.

The image taken in shade is more uniformly lit, and almost blends in with the background detail. The overall effect is to flatten colours and contrast, which may suit certain subjects, but not one which needs to show depth and contrast.
Although aperture priority was used, the difference in the two shutter speeds was noted.


1/400th f/8 ISO 100. Aperture priority


1/160th f/8 ISO 100. Aperture priority

Having chosen a subject with matt properties in the last image, this time I’ve aimed for something which is slightly reflective, and with bright colours.
The insect house below was taken in sunlight, and I expected to see more of a difference in the coloured section, but the change is negligible. This may be  partly due to the angle of the subject, and also the way in which the centre is surrounded by the wooded structure, giving very little area for light to bounce and reflect from.

The lighter toned areas have once again shown the greatest shift in colour and contrast. Wooden areas appear more yellow than the image taken in shade. The shaded image appears to have greater depth, and supports the central coloured area more effectively, whereas it looks slightly lost in the sunlit image. Aperture values changed from f/5.6 to f/7.1 between the two shots.


1/100th f/7.1 ISO 100. Shutter priority



1/100th f/5.6 ISO 100. Shutter priority.

I’ve chosen a more reflective subject for the next image, a coiled spool of wire, to see how this varies against the other two subjects.
Being reflective, much more of the subject is highlighted compared to the shaded version, making it appear larger, and somehow more rounded.

There is also greater contrast between the individual coils of wire which conveys a greater sense of the structure itself. It also stands out more from the background than the shaded version, once again reinforcing the feeling of depth.


1/400th f/6.3 ISO 100. Aperture priority.



1/400th f/6.3 ISO 100. Aperture priority.


The second part of the exercise required three photographs to be taken outside on an overcast day, to highlight shadowless light.
The aim was to show relief and texture such as that seen in a knarled root of a tree, and also an object with strong colour.

I’m not sure why my hand came to mind when thinking of the knarled root of a tree, but it’s certainly weathered. Although the image below shows detail, I think this would preclude it from being ideal for the more flattering style of portrait shots. It shows a little too much detail, but would be ideal for slightly grittier images where character and a harder edge were required, although a sunlit version of the same subject may force me to retract that view.


1/40th f/11 ISO 100. Aperture priority.

The next image was chosen for its strong colour. Being artificial, it also had a slight reflective quality which seemed to add more contrast across the various tones.
I’ve used a macro lens to emphasise texture. Focussing with this lens is infuriatingly difficult at times, even with manual mode. Without ‘live view’ it feels very hit and miss, and even in this image I feel it’s slightly off from where I wanted the focus to be.

Focussing issues aside, there is still a softer blending of the individual strands of the flower head.
Light appears more even across the image, and although this does not convey a great sense of depth, it suits the subject. The centre of the subject has just enough shadow detail to give it some sense of form, without being overpowering.


1/6th f/13 ISO 100. Aperture priority.

The final image in the section is of a piece of firewood, chosen for its tones and texture.
The light emphasised the slightly undulating areas well, which contrast well with the darker wood tones along the piece.
Each shaded area is evenly offset against its paler neighbour, a facet which would look washed out in brighter, and less diffused light.


1/30th f/11 ISO 100. Aperture priority.


For the final part of the exercise, images depicting rain were required.

The first shot was taken just after a rainstorm, when sunlight showed refraction in the water drops more acutely. I was attracted to the contrast of the rain drops against the blur of the background.


1/100th f/11 ISO 100. Aperture priority.

In the second image, rain was just approaching, which gave rise to a very dark sky, accentuated by brilliant sunshine. The rainbow was fading fast, and was shot just before it dissipated.


1/25th f/10 ISO 100. Aperture priority.

The final image was almost left out, mainly due to the fact that it was shot on a mobile phone with various filter effects. Although I don’t feel able to claim it as entirely my own creation, due to this fact, I still the like distorted appearance that taking the image through the car windscreen conveys.


Mobile upload

This exercise demonstrated that overcast conditions can provide ideal diffused light which complements a number of subjects, although I found that brighter skies gave better results than completely grey blanket of cloud.

Although course notes advised thinking of clouds and other weather conditions as kinds of filters, I feel that a certain quality of light is still required to effectively portray an image as required.
The richest light which gave beautifully saturated colours, occured when storms were approaching or just receding. Combined with sunlight, the enriched colours emphasised contrast, and produced very dramatic lighting.

This kind of lighting is fairly rare, so the exercise helped to reinforce the fact that you can only work with the weather conditions presented.
Selecting a subject suited to the light at hand was also key to enhancing its qualities, and conveying the tone of the overall image.