Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Light: Project - The time of day

Exercise: cloudy weather and rain

Approach and results:

Part 1 - cloud vs sun: The following pairs of images were taken on days when the sun was in and out of the cloud.  The aim of the exercise is to compare the changing levels of colour and exposure and the effects they have on the overall image.

This first pair of images were taken inside Manchester Catherdral.  I wanted to capture how the light shone through the large leaded windows.  The first shot was taken with the sun out at F5 and 1/400sec.  The second shot was with the sun behind the cloud and was F5 but 1/125sec, so approximately 1 1/2 stops slower than the first.  The cloudy shot is also bluer than the sunny shot.  In terms of recognising what the shot actually is, the cloudy shot is clearer as the confusing shadows cast by the leaded glass are not apparent.  That said, I took the shot because I liked the myriad of patterns created by the shadows and it is the sunlit shot that I prefer.

This second pair of images are of a security guard in a stockport shopping centre. The shaded image was taken at F7.1 and 1/320sec whilst the sunny image was taken at F7.1 and 1/400sec but is slightly overexposed.  One stop difference would probably work better.  Detail in the stonework has been lost and the gradually changing tones that give depth are also considerably less obvious in the sunny image.  However, the guard is better lit and defined in the sunny image.  I like the fact that (as a security guard) the light shades have gone from over his head.  The shady shot is also bluer than the sunny shot.

This third pair of images are also of a Stockport shopping centre.  I chose this view because of the potential light and shade and also because of the large amounts of glass.  The sunny shot was taken at F5.6 and 1/250sec whilst the cloudy shot was taken at F5.6 and 1/400sec.  This would appear to be the wrong way round!  However, with the sun out there is a large area of shade created which has obviously registered with the evaluative metering.  The building on the right is still exposed correctly but has more definition.  The sunny shot is much warmer. The cloudy picture is still very bright as the cloud was not too thick.  It is more evenly lit and there is a lot more cloud reflected off of the glass roofing which probably explains the unexpected light readings.

Part 2.1 - The aim of this exercise is to select two of my previous images that would not benefit from being taken in bright sunlight.

In this first image I wanted to capture the bleak solitute of a cold early winter morning.  The only people out were dog walkers.  There was a layer of mist across the bare football pitch and the sky was gloomy.  If this had been a clear bright day the image would turn into a crisp winter morning and the mist probably wouldn't have been there in the first place.

This second image is of a small backstreet in Manchester.  the buildings are close together so not much room for light.  Any strong sunlight would have been very directional and would have lightened some areas and not others creating a high contrast and loosing some of the detail that I wanted to capture. 

Part 2.2 - The aim here was to capture 3 images that would look better taken under cloudy conditions with a more flat even light.  It was a bright but cloudy day when I took these images.

The first picture of the wet handrail shows gradual tones giving depth and highlighting the shape of the rail.  In bright sun there would have been a very bright reflection resulting in losing a lot of the rail (or the highlights being blown out).

The second image is from a shop window display.  Again the detail and shading that is present would have been difficult to reproduce in bright sun as would the range of yellow hues in the pencils. Taking the picture through glass would also be more problematic in bright sun.

The third image of the statue has a lot of detail and relief.  Also the picture is taken upwards towards the bright sky.  The detail in the statue is visible with not too many harsh shadows making the figure hard to define.  The raised names on the base are actually readable on a larger image but this would be more difficult if sharp long shadows were cast as a result of strong sunlight.

Part 3 - rain:  As much as I hate the rain, it can be great for photographs.  Living in Manchester I might as well make use of this abundant resource!  This first shot was taken at an open air lido where the rain doesn't really matter, once you're wet, you're wet!  It was the bubbles forming as the raindrops hit the surface that attracted me to the shot.  This was only evedent when the rain was not too hard.  Heavy rain just broke up the surface.  I took the shot from distance (under cover) and used a shallow depth of field to focus on the near centre of the pool.  This also gave me an ideal shutter speed to capture the bubbles.  This shot looks much better larger but the blogging software only gives a few size options.  The next size up is too big for the page!

This second shot is of raindrops on the patio doors at home looking down the garden.  I kept perpendicular to the window, fairly low down so that I could maintain focus across the window and keep the background dark.  I took a shot higher up with a brighter background but prefer this one.  I used F8 to keep the depth of field.  I like the fact that there is an inverted view of the garden in every drop, with the green lawn at the top and the grey sky at the bottom. 

Learning points:

I tend to take most of my pictures in brighter weather.  This became self evident when I had to look back for two shots that would not benefit from being taken in strong sunlight.  They were quite hard to find!  My camera is not weather sealed and I think I'm quite concious of this.  I also have a preference for high contrast images with lots of blacks and you can't get this on a grey day.  That said, some shots that I would have naturally taken in sun, such as the hand rail, actually work considerably better in shade.  There is a subtlety in contrast that allows wide ranges of detail and colour to be captured without exceeding the dynamic range of the camera.  The 'all or nothing' high contrast image doesn't lend itself to gradual changes in tone that, for example, make the handrail look round or give it depth.

I'm still not quite sure I have hit upon why the cloudy shopping centre picture had a faster shutter speed.  Surely the yellow wall of the shopping centre should look overexposed but it doesn't?

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