Assignment Two: Seeing Like Your Camera

The second assignment comes after a section that explored the operation of the sensor, examined the characteristics of each end of the dynamic range and the practical implication of this in terms of the dynamic range of the camera and the scene and concluded with a discussion on white balance and colour.

This assignment was to wrap all of this up and put it into practise with an exercise to test our ability to interpret scenes as a camera would with a number of challenging lighting scenarios.

After a great deal of desktop planning while the sun was hiding from view, when it finally emerged I looked out at it shining on my collection of garden ornaments and decided to do something with them. My tutor suggested I look at the work of Chip Simon and this inspired me to tell a story and to use more props to help do so. I then developed the story, planned photos around it and, with lighting situations from the options given, decided which was appropriate to each shot. More on the planning of the assignment can be found in the log entry “Assignment 2 Planning.”

I could say that the story is an allegorical tale of discrimination and class divide, but on the other hand, it might just be a bit of fun.

The pictures are in the order appropriate to tell the story, to help navigate them this table relates each to the lighting situations:

Lighting Situation Images
3 Photographing people in the shade while the background is in the sunshine, eg a group portrait in the shade of a tree. 1, 10, 12
5 Any backlit scene, whether in direct or indirect light. 4a, 4b, 6, 9
7 Indoor scenes illuminated by a single source of artificial light of high luminance eg a desk lamp. 7, 8, 11
8 A scene with strong incident dappled light. These conditions are often found when photographing in a forest on a sunny day. 2, 3, 5

I have submitted 4 pictures for situation 5 which results in 13 overall. I felt they were all necessary to tell the story.

Note: The pictures are identified by number. I have deliberately not captioned or titled them; I want the pictures to tell the story so I am not giving any textual clues. The characters also asked me to apologise for the Heath Robinson nature of some of the sets and props but wanted me to point out that they have little education and limited resources.

Here are the photos:


1 – Situation “Photographing people in the shade while the background is in the sunshine, eg a group portrait in the shade of a tree”

clip_image002

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 38mm, f16, 1/30 sec, ISO200

The exposure was about maintaining detail in the shadows and the highlights. This was spot metered on the foreground, then underexposed by ½ stop to reduce the highlights in the background slightly. The dynamic range here was too great, the foreground is slightly too dark and there is excessive highlight clipping on the background. The auto white balance also was not successful with a distinct blue cast on the foreground.


2 – Situation “A scene with strong incident dappled light. These conditions are often found when photographing in a forest on a sunny day.”

clip_image004

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 105mm, f5.6, 1/350 sec, ISO200

I used evaluative metering for this and it seemed to have coped well with no exposure compensation. White balance was set to shade and this also looks quite pleasing.


3 – Situation “A scene with strong incident dappled light. These conditions are often found when photographing in a forest on a sunny day.”

clip_image006

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 75mm, f4.5, 1/350 sec, ISO200

Another scene with evaluative metering, although the ½ stop over exposure I gave it was probably unnecessary as the highlights look a bit bright and the shadows are not really so deep. White balance for this one was Auto and it seemed to have interpreted the scene quite well.


4a – Situation “Any backlit scene, whether in direct or indirect light”

clip_image008

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 65mm, f4.5, 1/500 sec, ISO200

This was the hardest of the set to get the exposure right. I switched to manual mode, based the exposure on a spot metered on Eeyore’s nose but then adjusted it quite heavily to produce an acceptable exposure. White balance was set to Shade and the colours it has given are quite faithful.


4b – Situation “Any backlit scene, whether in direct or indirect light”

clip_image010

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 47mm, f5.6, 1/350 sec, ISO200

This was another one that was difficult to get right. I spot metered on the donkey’s back and underexposed by one stop. The dark background is a nice backdrop to set off the reflection in the mirror, and the character’s back is about right, but the reflection is too washed out. White balance was set on auto as I felt a shade setting would be too blue for the reflection.


5 – Situation “A scene with strong incident dappled light. These conditions are often found when photographing in a forest on a sunny day.”

clip_image012

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 70mm, f5.6, 1/350 sec, ISO200

Evaluative metering has given an exposure which is about right, possibly slightly on the light side. There is good detail on the subject although the highlights are blown on the sign. White balance on shade is quite successful.


6 – Situation “Any backlit scene, whether in direct or indirect light”

clip_image014

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 50mm, f5.6, 1/1000 sec, ISO200

I was in two minds how I wanted this to look, I took another one with the figures silhouetted but eventually chose this one. This was with evaluative metering with no exposure compensation and white balance was set to shade.


7 – Situation “Indoor scenes illuminated by a single source of artificial light of high luminance eg a desk lamp”

clip_image016

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 75mm, f4.5, 1/15 sec, ISO1600

This was lit by a 20w halogen anglepoise desk lamp. Evaluative metering and auto white balance gave an acceptable result quite easily, although hand-holding was quite a challenge.


8 – Situation “Indoor scenes illuminated by a single source of artificial light of high luminance eg a desk lamp”

clip_image018

 

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 44mm, f4, 1/30 sec, ISO200

The lighting here was the same as the previous one although I placed the light much closer to the subject, enabling the lower iso and faster shutter speed. I wanted the main subject to be brightly spotlit against a dark background with just a little light spilling onto the other character. The starting point for this one was a spot metered exposure on the subject but then I underexposed quite radically to get the effect I wanted. Auto white balance gave an acceptable white balance.


9 – Situation “Any backlit scene, whether in direct or indirect light”

clip_image020

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 50mm, f6.7, 1/350 sec, ISO200

I chose to spot meter this but evaluative metering would probably have given an equally acceptable result although it has to be said that the backlighting is at an oblique angle and not particularly challenging to expose. White balance was set to shade and worked well.


10 – Situation “Photographing people in the shade while the background is in the sunshine, eg a group portrait in the shade of a tree”

clip_image022

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 28mm, f6.7, 1/350 sec, ISO200

This is a similar setting to photo no 1, although the sun had moved around a bit by this time. This was spot metered with no exposure compensation and like image 1, the dynamic range is too great to capture successfully. The white balance was set to shade and this is more successful than the auto setting of the first image.

11 – Situation “Indoor scenes illuminated by a single source of artificial light of high luminance eg a desk lamp”

clip_image024

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 28mm, f4, 1/15 sec, ISO800

This used the same halogen desk lamp as the other indoor images, although it was located fairly high to the right of the camera to light scene as evenly as possible. Even so, the two foreground objects, Winnie and the white gnome, are receiving more light and the camera histogram showed clipping. Evaluative metering was used with ½ stop underexposure and the white balance set to auto.

12 – Situation “Photographing people in the shade while the background is in the sunshine, eg a group portrait in the shade of a tree”

clip_image026

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 41mm, f22, 1/10 sec, ISO200

Like image 10, this was spot metered but this time given ½ stop underexposure. White balance was set to shade.


Part Two

The second part of the assignment asked us to consider one of the lighting situations and consider how it might be done better. I have used situation 3 – “Photographing people in the shade while the background is in the sunshine, eg a group portrait in the shade of a tree”.

This is the first picture but later in the day when the sun had come round so that both foreground and background are equally lit.

clip_image028

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 44mm, f16, 1/90 sec, ISO200

This is better but the bright sunlight is sidelighting the characters, still a tricky scene to expose properly. The next one has relocated the characters, keeping the same special relationship but orientating them to suit the lighting better.

clip_image030

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 44mm, f16, 1/125sec, ISO200

This is easier to expose but it was the intent of the original image to show the gnomes toiling in the ground while the Pooh characters were swanning in the sunshine. This now removes this separation from the two groups, they are both swanning in the sunshine.

Another way of reducing the dynamic range of the scene is to fill in the shadow with flash. This is quite simple with my camera; with all but fully auto modes, the camera will expose according to the scene and provide enough flash just to light the foreground.

clip_image032

Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 30mm, f16, 1/125sec, ISO200

This is better; it keeps to the original intent and the foreground and background are both equally well lit. White balance is still a challenge as there are now three sources; direct sunlight, shade and flash. There is also something artificial looking about fill-in flash, apart from the white balance problems, the flash lit parts of the scene are unnaturally bright (compare the flash lit parts of the “shadow” with the unlit areas.

Another, and possibly better, option would have been to fill in using reflectors.

Yet another option, and one which could be used for all the scenarios, would have been to use a grey card. This can be used both to find a suitable exposure and acceptable white balance.

Reflection

I think I learnt more about the material of this part of the course doing this assignment than the exercises. This is not meant to belittle the exercises, it is more a comment on the learning value of the assignment. On the whole I am pleased with the pictures I have produced, most are well-exposed. But there are improvements that can be made. White balance in picture 1 has been commented on, the focus field ought to be deeper in 4b and 11, the dynamic range in all the “shade” pictures (1, 10 and 12) is really too much to cope with and 4b is slightly overexposed overall.

The other thing about not being able to use Photoshop is that I could not correct other errors, typically the wonkiness apparent in 4b, 7 and 12.

I have done more preparation and research for this assignment than any I have done previously, to such an extent that this was the first for which I have done a separate post. As a result, I was pleased with the cohesiveness of the set of pictures, something I have been working on for a while.

I am continuing to try to place my photography into a broader vision. I have been to a Landscape exhibition at Somerset House and taken a quick tour around the V and A. I would like to have attended more study visits but other commitments have prevented it. I am currently reading the Liz Wells edited anthology “Photography: A Critical Introduction” and regularly review critical photographic web sites; the Guardian’s photo mini-site and the BJP in particular.

To hone my skills and knowledge beyond the course materials I have read a couple of Michael Freeman’s books, The Digital SLR Handbook and Mastering Digital Photography, as well as various web sites, notably Cambridge in Colour and dpbestflow.

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2 Comments

  1. this is brilliant, shows real signs of creativity and you managed to fulfil the brief completely … well done you …

    Reply
    • Thanks Julie, I was quite pleased with it and think it’s the way I’d like my “creative” photography to develop. I’ve got some good ffedback from the tutor (now posted) with some good pointers how it can be improved.

      Reply

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