Brief: In manual mode take a sequence of shots of a subject of your choosing at different times on a single day. It doesn’t matter if the day is overcast or clear but you need a good spread of times from early morning to dusk. You might decide to fix your viewpoint or you might prefer to ‘work into’ your subject, but the important thing is to observe the light, not just photograph it. Add the sequence to your learning log together with a timestamp from the time/date info in the metadata. In your own words, briefly describe the quality of light in each image.
I decided because of my imminent move to the North East that I would use a prop for this exercise that I could easily replicate if I needed to. Additionally, as per the brief in the course notes I am thinking ahead to the assignment and my thoughts of possibly deconstructing a Dutch Masters still life painting to understand how they used the light on elements of their paintings. Having researched this I settled on a lemon.
All shots were taken in a conservatory during 17th April; a day which started bright and sunny but became cloudter later. The conservatory is north-east facing so the sun rose to the left of the lemon.
I used a Lumix GX7 with a 14-140mm Panasonic lens. I set the ISO to 200 and WB to sunny/daylight. I used a mixture of hand held and tripod mounted shots.
One interesting phenomena was the White Balance (WB). When uploaded into Lightroom not all images were uniform. There was a blue cast on some and therefore, I adjusted the WB in the editing process together with some sharpening and a slight adjustment to exposure on some of the other images.
In this shot the light is quite soft producing long shadows but bright highlighting the lemon at the bottom left hand side. The shadow of the window frame is just visible in the right hand corner. The contrast is high, demonstrated by the way in which the light is falling on the lemon and no/little light entering the shadow and the relatively hard edges of the shadow.
An hour later and the sun has moved round to throw the lemon into complete shade, this produces a lower contrast image of the lemon. There are still a couple of bright spots on the lemon coming from the reflection of the window glass. The shadow of the window frame has changed the way in which the light falls on the lemon. The light does not strike the lemon however he light falling on the table is also of slightly lower contrast as seen in the softer edges of the shadows except for the square of light in the upper left to middle area where it remains bright on the table. This is because the size of the light source (the sun) has grown larger as it rises in the sky.
Ninety minutes later and the sun has now moved back to the left of the lemon with more of the light focused onto the side. The contrast is high again, producing hard edged shadows behind the lemon where no light is hitting the table. The whole image appears bright with the hard light of the morning sun.
Another hour and the shadows to the top of the table have now disappeared with the effect of the whole image being brighter. The light is now hard across the whole of the shot and the reflected light from the window is no longer visible as seen at 7.46 am.
As the sun is moving to it’s highest point at midday once again the lemon is in the shadow of the frame of the conservatory which has the effect of a much lower contrast of the shot as seen at 7.46 am producing softer light and soft edges to the shadow. However, there is one spot of light falling on the middle left of the lemon. This was one of the images where the WB was not quite right and was producing a slight bluey cast to the shot. My edit included changing it to a cloudy WB which produced a more pleasing effect. Interestingly the Auto in LR produced a very blue effect.
Image a is the unedited shot of image b. There is evidence of the blue cast appearing at the top of the image on the table. I applied the same edit as the 11.11.12 shot. In shot a unedited the highlights falling on the lemon from the high, bright midday sun is blown out. When I edited image b the highlights came back into range.
The high, bright sun is creating a hard light with very hard edged shadows behind the lemon and the light falling very near to the top of the lemon as would be expected on a bright sunny day.
Just over three quarters of an hour later and the shadows have almost gone. There is just the slightest shadow underneath the lemon. At this point it was beginning to get cloudy and the light is now softer and more diffuse. The dynamic range on a sunny day produces bright highlights and very black shadows which produce images that lack detail and have hotspots (as seen in the unedited 12 midday shot) whereas, on a cloudy day the clouds take the light and diffuse it so that there is no bright light source falling on the subject or scene creating a more forgiving light that compliments the subject with pleasant tones.
The afternoon was cloudy and now (just before sunset) the light remains diffuse and the slightest shadow remains below the lemon. By now the colour cast is much more pronounced as seen in the unedited version. Although, in this shot there are no blown out highlights.
The sun has now set and the diffuse light continues. This is the edited version with the WB changed from Daylight to Shade. Some light is falling on the right hand side of the lemon, probably a reflection from the glass window. Although, there were no lights on in the conservatory there were lights on in the house adjacent to the conservatory. Very little shadow is apparent.
Reflection and Learning
Although the day was bright for most of the time the White Balance of the camera needed to be changed to reflect how the light was falling on the lemon. When the lemon itself was in shade the WB would have been better set on shade and not daylight.
When I first reviewed these shots I thought many of them were very similar but on doing an in depth critique the light actually changed in more ways than I’d anticipated.
The dynamic range of the camera is greatest in the brightest light when the camera captures both strong highlights and dark areas. I didn’t pay enough attention to this and didn’t review the histograms as critically as I might, assuming that the camera would actually meter on the lemon and the WB would be right when the exposure was correct. All of the shots I took were properly exposed according to the histogram. In future I will not rely on the histogram alone to assess the shots.