Exercise 4.4

“Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form”.

Writing up my notes from my attempt yesterday I’m not sure how successful I was. It was still very much worth doing however. My lighting is flash, and there seems to be so much that you can do with flash that I still feel as if I’m just nibbling around the edges of possibility, despite the fact that I am far more comfortable with flash than I was a couple of years back. I was very happily surprised that I could set up the stands, flashes, transceivers, little cables between the flashes and transceivers, and all the flashes fired first time. It used to take me ages just to get a flash to fire, never mind any control over how it fired. Looking at these I can see that I was distracted by the light and that this doesn’t always make the form of the pussy willow apparent. I think the macro shots did the best job of showing the form whereas the wider shots worked better as a lighting playground.

I photographed a stem of pussy willow, in a glass vase, on a piece of paper set up on my kitchen table as an infinity curve. I like the texture and form of the flower. Ambient light was from my north facing windows in the late morning. Camera was on a tripod, and I used one or two manual flashes (bare, no softboxes etc) that were mounted on light stands and controlled by transceiver switches. I also used a reflector that could be set up with different finishes (gold, silver, translucent, white, black). I used a cable release to fire the shutter and worked in manual mode.

I very much liked how the gold reflector generated more warmth to the light, and I also liked how the silver reflector boosted the light (not shown), I had to reduce the exposure slightly to compensate for the extra light. I loved being able to create a shadow, that made me very happy. It was interesting to look at the histograms for the different images, you could see the impact of the gold reflector quite clearly. It was a good lesson in flash settings too, especially zoom which I had never really understood, but this time I could see that a larger zoom number such as 105 gives more of a narrow spotlight (like a macro lens) whereas a wider setting such as 24 gives a broader coverage (like a wide angle lens). I could also see the results of the different flash power settings – too long a burst of flash and my entire image blew out.

It was interesting to see that I had to increase the camera exposure, especially with the macro lens, despite using flash. I think part of this was to stop my pale background looking grey/beigeish and part is a lack of familiarity on my part with balancing flash and ambient light. Every shot was its own learning curve. Looking at the images now I should have set a custom white balance. Every day’s a school day.

Here are my lighting sketches.

These exercises have been done out of sequence, I have not yet done ex 4.2. However, the similarities between this lighting and the daylight and ambient artificial light are that the same characteristics of quality, contrast, direction and colour still apply even though there is more control available in a studio setting. I like that I can use flash to add to ambient lighting, and that I can tweak the flash to get different effects. I was actually quite dizzy with the prospect of creative power when I managed to both create and photograph a shadow in the same fraction of a second. I think that with both daylight and ambient artificial night-time light you have to largely work with what you have, so there is less flexibility.

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