LEARNING LOG: THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT

Assignment Four

REFLECTIONS AGAINST ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

Demonstration of technical and visual skills:

  • I believe I used my observation skills honed in the last assignment to good effect, seeking out the interesting.
  • As usual I composed in camera and occasionally returned and reshot to improve.
  • I predominantly shot in full manual mode which was new to me to this extent and this gave me greater control especially in the challenging midday sunlight.

Quality of outcome:

  • I think a flexible mind set at the outset of editing enabled me to be more objective when choosing images.
  • I looked for coherence by choosing the images that were “a mystery and support for our imagination” as some of Michael Schmidt’s photographs have been described (Delahaye, 2014) with abstract, distorted and or partial reflections.
  • I thought carefully when presenting them as a series using colour tones alternatively to break the viewer’s rhythm.
  • I hope that I have communicated these ideas clearly in my analysis.

Demonstration of creativity

  • I believe that the images are imaginative and varied in the viewpoints that they present (in a conceptual rather than physical sense).
  • I experimented by testing different types of daylight before settling on midday sunlight.
  • I feel as if I am beginning to develop a personal voice, knowing that I most enjoy working with and using colour to advantage rather than black and white.
  • I think that I took creative risks as I interpreted the brief in an individual way.

Context:

  • I reflected throughout the exercises and assignment and have recorded this.
  • I have researched as suggested and in a wider sense.
  • I applied my learning from the exercises when choosing the context for the assignment images.

References:

 Delahaye, L. Cited in: O’Hagan, S (2014) Michael Schmidt Obituary. Guardian online. 28 May 2014: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/28/michael-schmidt. (Accessed 27.3.16).

 

LEARNING LOG: THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT

ASSIGNMENT FOUR: DAYLIGHT                                                 

Niki South Student number:514516

1st thoughts: Once I decided to shoot in daylight and extend exercise 4.2 I considered what type of daylight I might use and revisited my research for exercise 4.2 and lighting in general, see link: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a4-research/

I then experimented with daylight at different times of day. Initially I thought I might photograph ruins and ancient monuments and began by shooting grave stones and ruins to learn about the effects of strong midday sunlight (influenced by Schmidt and Atget) as well as late afternoon light (influenced by Atget). Testing hard light and side raking light on angular objects; I was looking for starkness and abstraction. I was able to see the clarity that the minimal shadows gave to an image and how strong midday light emphasised their hard edges and gave good contrast. I experimented with soft diffused light falling on trees gravestones and ruins. From this I had an initial idea that I might photograph old buildings in soft diffused daylight and new buildings in stark daylight and use the different natural lighting to emphasis the different qualities of such buildings. Consequently I went on to shoot modern buildings in both midday light and then at dusk.

I found the modern buildings offered me more interesting potential and I realised that the inconsistent weather would limit my possibilities for photographing different subjects in different light unless I was shooting over a long period of time. I decided to concentrate on modern urban buildings and to use harsh overhead midday sunlight to exploit their angular lines and hard edges. 

Mind map preparations:

mind map preparations

The first shoot: I shot in mono as I believed I would present the assignment in black and white to make the most of contrast and preserve neutrality. On reviewing the images I found them flat and uninteresting even though I had captured their starkness. I had however caught some curious viewpoints, reflections, partial reflection and distortions. I decided that I should find my difference from Schmidt and Atget here and explore the effect of reflections and distortions of urban images, rather than presenting documentary images.

Subsequent shoots: I returned to the same locations in the late afternoon but found that the stronger midday sun gave the most effective graphic urban images. The light reflected in vertical surfaces were stronger, even distorted, and the colours heightened; I could see that the colour temperature was bluer when the light falling was strong especially on shaded surfaces, and the colours more saturated. I determined to make the most of the colour and shoot in colour not mono. I revisited the same locations several times as my shooting window was short each day to catch the direct overhead light and experimented with different perspectives, partial reflections and distortions.

Mind map shooting:

mind map shooting

 Editing: Whilst editing I was particularly conscious of the creativity criteria. I gradually shortlisted images that I thought contained more than just good composition and technical skills. I steered towards images that contained interesting reflections of light and effective colours (predominantly blues and browns). At this point I returned to the work of Rut Blees Luxumberg , as although she photographs public spaces at night I was struck by her use of colour and the way that though some of her images are recognisable some are almost abstract. Some of my images, though shot in daylight, I thought shared some similarities with her use of pools of colour, perspective and reflection.

In the final stages of editing I eliminated images that were simply graphic urban images with reflection:

_MG_3252    (Contact sheet image 33)

Images that were not strongly representative of urban space:

_MG_3650    (Contact sheet image 127)

Images where the reflected light was simplistic and not challenging to the viewer:

_MG_3505    (Contact sheet image 96)

A few remaining images which were portrait:

_MG_4285    (Contact sheet image 143)

Mind map editing:

mind map editing

The theme for my series emerged:  Reflections of light in urban spaces.

 

RESEARCH: THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT

RESEARCH FOR ASSIGNMENT 4

THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT – DAYLIGHT

Michael Schmidt  ( 1945 – 2014)   A documentary photographer based in Berlin. He captured images of the city, its residents and its concrete landscapes in stark black and white images (BBC 2014). He preferred black and white photography as it neutralises images so that the viewer “is able to form an objective opinion about the image from a neutral standpoint independent of his subjective colour perception. He is thus not emotionally distracted.” (Schmidt, 1979). Over five decades he shot a series of projects, all in varying degrees of grey, believing that “Photography was invented to enable us to portray reality with complete precision to the last detail” (Schmidt, 1979).

One of other ways that he achieved neutrality was photographing in the flat midday sun, preferring to work without shadows so that the viewer allows” the objects portrayed in the photograph to take their effect upon him without being distracted by shadows or other mood effects’.  (Schmidt, 1979).

The French photographer Luc Delahaye said of Schmidt’s work: “His pictures look simple at first glance, and their anti-sentimentality, their refusal of all the tricks of the usual seduction, their concision and their clarity, give them great efficiency. They show what they show but they manage to retain an opacity, a mystery, and they become a support for our imagination”,  (O’Hagan 2014).

 

schmidt 1    schmidt

                                        (Nordenhake, n.d)

Eugène Atget (1857-1927)   His early work was of Paris streets mostly shot at midday with light that is factual, unemotional with minimal shadows: “light is external and illuminates its subject with an even clarity” (Borcoman, n.d). He sought as a documentarian would, to convey information objectively.

atget a   (Anon 1, n.d)

His later photographs used more subjective light with deep shadows, reflecting mood. These were often shot early in the morning, they use “light and shadow to create a mood rather than to describe a place”, (Anon 2, n.d). When photographing the parks and gardens in and around Paris, “these late photographs have a qualitatively different sensibility: formally bold and synthetic, they are also atmospheric, mysterious, and resonant” (Anon 2, n.d).

atget 2  (Anon 3, n.d.)

(Anon 3, n.d)In this image he uses light and space to describe the subject, and by shooting into the sun, the tree and its canopy is in silhouette in the foreground whilst the trees in the distance have been flattened to a narrow band.

atget 3  (Anon 3, n.d)

Golden (2013, p26) suggests that “the simplicity and limitations of his technique, which led him to photograph in the early morning…gave a certain empty and surreal charm to his cityscapes”. His work is also characterised by the rapid foreshortening caused by wide angled lenses and “frequent truncating of the nominal subject in exchange for a more intimate vantage point”, (Szarkowski, n.d). 

Johnny Savage     An Irish photographer whose new body of work Fallout explores modern landscapes in Ireland through a series of sixteen surreal and haunting images of modern day ruins. These buildings were built during the economic boom but have never been occupied. I came across his work when researching photographers working with urban space and reflections. Savage (n.d) describes fallout as a series of photographs that considers the modern Irish landscape; a landscape where empty buildings stand like ruins, reminders of another time or place in history”. 

I like the way he uses reflections to create layers in the images, creating a mood of “disillusionment and loss, a haunted empty landscape” (Savage, n.d)

savage 1   savage 2

(Anon 4, n.d)

 

I was also inspired by Rut Blees Luxemburg, see research for exercise 4.3 link: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/exercise-4-3/ 

References:

Anon 1. (n.d)Art of Old Paris. National gallery of Art Washingtom. http://www.nga.gov/feature/atget/works_art.shtm (Accessed 27.3.16)

Anon 2 (n.d). The Art of Documentary Photography. National gallery of Art Washington http://www.nga.gov/feature/atget/bio.shtm (Accessed 27.3.16).

 

Anon3 (n.d) Parks and Gardens. National gallery of Art Washington. http://www.nga.gov/feature/atget/works_park.shtm (Accessed 27.3.16)

Anon 4 (n,d) https://www.lensculture.com/articles/johnny-savage-fallout (Accessed 28.4.16).

 

BBC (2014). Michael Schmidt: German photographer dies aged 68. 25.05.2014.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-27567306 (accessed 27.3.16).

 

Borcoman, J ( n.d) Eugene Atget, 1857-1927

http://masters-of-photography.com/A/atget/atget_articles3.html (Accessed 27.3.16).

 

Golden, R (2013) Masters of photography. (Third edition). London. Goodman books.

 

Nordenhake (n.d) http://www.nordenhake.com/php/artist.php?RefID=70 (accessed 27.3.16)

 

O’Hagan, S (2014) Michael Schmidt Obituary. Guardian online. 28 May 2014:  

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/28/michael-schmidt. (Accessed 27.3.16)

 

Savage, (n.d).http://www.domusweb.it/en/photo-essays/2014/09/23/johnny_savage_fallout.html (Accessed 29.4.16)

 

RESEARCH: THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT

NOTES FROM BOOK:

Prakel, D (2007) LIGHTING. New York. AVA Publishing SA.

I made these notes to support my understanding whilst working through the exercises in The Language of Light and in preparation for shooting assignment 4.

“A photographer must be prepared to catch and hold on to those elements which give distinction to the subject or lend it atmosphere. They are often momentary, chance-sent thing…sometimes they are a matter of luck… Sometimes they are a matter of patience” Bill Brandt cited in Prakel (p57).

Daylight “is a combination of direct light from the sun, from the sky, and light reflected by the clouds” (p58).

Colour temperature is bluer when the light falling in shadows of an image are illuminated by skylight alone.

Morning light: Soft and diffuse. Before sunlight red to violet blue, immediately before pinker, at daybreak yellow.

Noon light: Though harsh does give saturated colours. Winter noon light is higher and has a warmer colour balance than photographic daylight.

Evening light: Strong, low angled light casting long shadows leading to crisper images. Sunsets are rich red and gold,

Night light: Gives an inky black or softly coloured backdrop.

Seasons: The winter is a lower colour temperature and the summer higher.

Location: Mountain top direct light is unforgiving and bluer. Coasts are giant reflectors as is sea spray. City light and tall buildings block all but overhead light. Vertical surfaces reflecting light. Pollution shows in a telephoto lens as yellowing or browning.

Fluorescent light: Is not a continuous spectrum of colours but a combination of green and orange and magenta light.

Street lighting: Is usually mercury or sodium vapour – giving violet/blue and yellow light respectively.

Neon light: Comprised of gases in a tube used to create colours.

Colour filters and film: Daylight and electronic flash (5500K)    Tungsten (3200K)

Exposure:  when contrasty lighting increase by 2 stops.

RESEARCH: THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT

BOOK REVIEW

Freeman, M. (2013) Capturing the light – the heart of photography. Sussex.  The Ilex press Itd.

I first read this book when preparing for assignment 2 and have revisited as it is especially relevant to assignment 4 The Language of light. It explains in some detail various qualities of light in photographic terms, but in a non-technical way, showing different ways to work with natural light. The book is divided into 3 parts, waiting, chasing and helping the light.

1) Waiting for light He describes the lighting conditions for which you need to understand, plan intelligently and have reasonable expectations for (especially a feel for contrast and shadows). These kinds of light (22 are explored) range from grey light, raking light, snow light and includes the magic hour. I found it useful that he gives the key points of a light, for instance wet grey light: sheen local contrast and atmosphere; then describes subjects and environments that are suited to the light and the effects that it gives, for wet grey light: glistening reflections and higher local contrast.

For this assignment I became particularly interested in hard light (used by Eugene Atget in his early works and Michael Schmidt). He describes this light as mostly unloved, as it casts dense shadows with hard edges and high contrast. Whilst this may not be flattering if trying to photograph people, it can pick out details and textures and add abstraction which may be desirable for angular objects. He suggests that hard light is particularly suited to producing strong images in black and white photography, concentrating on tonality and shape, suggesting tones can be pushed to extremes more acceptably in black and white. He also proposes that as lighting helps to “evoke the physical sensation of a time and place” (hard light) it is conducive to creating stark city-scapes. High raking light (from the side) reveals texture and adds the shapes of the shadows to show more of what the subject is about. I wondered could I use this to advantage in my exercises and assignment. I will also be interested in observing the difference in the hard light at high altitudes when I am trekking in North Vietnam shortly (he calls this high altitude blue). Apparently the contrast is particularly high and the open shade is noticeably blue at high altitudes due to the very high UV content of the light. Freeman suggests using a polariser (which work the strongest at high altitudes) to exaggerate the deep blue sky, I intend to try this.

The golden hour was also of particular interest to me, (following research into Aget’s later photographs). I knew it was warm sympathetic sending out long bands of light and shade, but what else could I learn to exploit it better? I probably knew that this light gives a 3 point shooting choice (sun behind, at the side or in front of the camera) but had not realised how elements such as clear air would accentuate the blur of shadow edges or the proximity of an object affects the sharpness of a shadow edge and will watch out for this.

I reread with particular interest the chapter on reflection light once I decided to shoot images of reflective buildings and reflections of buildings for assignment 4. He refers to reflection as capturing reflections of light, rather than using reflected light to bounce up onto a subject. I learnt that the lower the camera to the surface the sharper the angle and the stronger and brighter the reflections, and that the refection would probably be darker (about 1 stop) than the actual, would I see this in my images? This will be affected by other elements; haze which softens the contrast, focal length where a shorter length is more likely to keep the reflected light evenly bright across the frame, silhouette and elevation (the higher the sunlight in the sky the higher the camera needs to be?).

I was also keen to learn more about skylight blue shade. Apparently on a cloudless day 85% of the light comes from the sun but some from the rest of the sky reflecting only in blue wavelengths. I had thought that many of the buildings that I’d shot reflections in were blue, but were they really blue or accentuated by “diffuse sky radiation” (where blue wavelengths, which are normal atmospheric particles predominate, as they are shorter than the wavelengths of sunlight). This means that anywhere shaded from the sun is lit by blue light, some which bounces up from the ground or walls – can I now see that in my images?

For the exercise on artificial light I re read the chapters on city light-street lights and display lights. I learnt that street lighting may be long-spectrum orange (old fashioned tungsten – now rare, with a rounded appearance), narrow spectrum yellow-orange (from sodium, sharp cut narrow and monochromatic), blue-green from fluorescent, blue white from mercury vapour and similar blue-tinted light from metal halide. Can I distinguish these different types of artificial lights in my images? Apparently if a photo contains at least a couple of these different sources then the neutral setting will show these colour difference. As far as display lights go neon is becoming rarer but do tolerate a wide variation in exposure.

2) Chasing light Freeman distinguishes these lighting conditions as when you have to be opportunistic, as they are unpredictable and a photographer has to work quickly to catch the light at its best. This also includes the golden hour and other lighting such as light shafts, foggy light, and reflected light. It was Chiaroscuro light that particularly caught my interest as I have read of several photographers who use it. It is sunlight that bounces off different ground surfaces rather than direct light, often out of frame; it’s not intense, though is still the main source of lighting. It usually gives light from the side and a subtle range of mid to dark shadows making them a warm brown.

3) Helping light   This he calls mastering professionals techniques for manipulating light. Here he covers lighting from filled light, to filtered light, to processed light, amongst others. This I will return to when most relevant to me.

The learning that I will take away:

  • It has encouraged me to find the positive aspects of photographing in less popular daylight conditions such as flat grey skies, he explains that “most kinds of light are good for something, if only you think and work hard enough” (introduction).
  •  It has also caused me to stop and really notice then reflect on the best use of any given lighting situation (outdoors for now).
  • I will certainly use the book as reference when shooting in the future.