Assignment 4: Languages of light. Preparation for assignment.

Revisit one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or studio light from Part Four (4.2, 4.3 or 4.4) and prepare it for formal assignment submission:

  • Create a set of between six and ten finished images. For the images to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, for instance a subject, or a particular period of time. 
  • Include annotated contact sheets of all of the photographs that you´ve shot for the exercise (see notes on the contact sheet in Part Three).
  • Assignment notes are an important part of every assignment. Begin your notes with an introduction outlining why you selected this particular exercise for the assignment, followed by a description of your “process” (the series of steps you took to make the photographs). Reference at least one of the photographers mentioned in Part Four in your assignment notes, showing how their approach to light might link to your own work. Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you´ve developed the exercise in order to meet the description of the Creativity criteria. Write 500-1000 words.
  • Include a link (or scanned pages) to Exercise 4.5 in your learning log for your tutor´s comments.

 

First impressions and introduction to the subject

I have chosen Exercise 4.2 (daylight) to be prepared for formal assignment. The reason for this is that after considering the three different exercises I found daylight the most revealing and complex, also the most difficult to control as it is in constant change.

After researching about photographers Sally Mann and Eugène Atget, I resolved to shoot some elements of nature (not necessarily landscape) as it is a subject that resonates with my practice. I have found inspiration on Atget´s botanical photographs to start with, as well as the atmospheric landscapes of Sally Mann. An element that came up from Exercise 4.2 was the reflection on the bottom of the frame, which I found interesting and something that could be introduced in the final images. I also wanted to connect the exercise and the assignment by choosing a similar subject.

First, I compared two images from Atget with two of a similar subject from my personal archive, and noted down the differences that I perceived make his images interesting as opposed as mine. This helped me see how the use of light in Atget´s photographs is not only enhancing the subject but also creating a layered background that contributes to a more dynamic image.

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Experimenting with refraction

I recently bought a set of defective optical glass prisms and a triangular prism to experiment with distortion and light refraction. I started exploring the different effects that could be achieved in camera by holding the prisms close to the lens and the results are quite interesting. The options are limitless, which appeals to me. This technique could introduce something new to the assignment in the way daylight can be manipulated, creating surreal images. I did some research on light refraction to understand how light travels and found the connection between the theory and Tacita Dean’s “green ray”, which I find it’s fascinating. In the sample images below, the reflection of the window on my sitter’s face evokes memories or thoughts, as if the camera would be reading into his mind and exposing the information.

 

Another curious fact about this is that the raw file shows the colours of the refracted light differently than the final images without manipulation. On screen preview of the RAW file, the light looks pink throughout and after opening the file and saving it as JPG there are different colours of the spectrum that can be seen. This still remains a mystery to me, as I haven’t found a reason for it. Below there are two screen grabs from images Flat prism 3 (on the right) and Flat prism 5. 

I am now looking at ways to integrate the effect of the prisms with my chosen subject (nature, trees, plants etc).

 

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Experimenting with daylight

  • Test images (part 1)

Escanear 54

To take my comparision on Atget´s photographs further, I took some snaps of interesting trees/bushes at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh (which is probably my favourite place on Earth) to get my thoughts going. I was after some “portraits” of natural elements to observe what light conditions cold bring to the image in terms of the overall look of the subject within the scene. It is difficult to isolate a tree from a background of trees and I found that the direction and quality of the light is key here. The images above were shot at midday so the light was falling flat on the trees that were completely exposed to it and the resulting image was not interesting enough and the subject did not stand out. However, when shooting a shrub that was shadowed by taller trees, the filtered light coming from the top was helping in revealing its shape and also creating a layered composition.

  • Test images (part 2)

On a second visit, I explored light in a different way, drawing from what I had observed on the first time. I used a compact camera on aperture priority mode. I shot the trees and bushes by pointing with the camera slightly down, pressing the shutter half way to focus and hold the metering and then recomposing by including a part of the sky on the frame. By doing this, I wanted to trick the meter and overexpose the image to “burn” the sky and create a more atmospheric scene. I also experimented shooting against the light but trying not to get it right in camera. As a result, some images have a faded flare on them, like a blue- ish reflection, which appeared mainly when direct sun light was filtered through the top branches of the trees. This flare gives a very mystic effect that feels almost like a “presence”.

Looking at the sky on some of these images I think of Sugimoto´s “Theaters” series and the overexposed screens. I find it fascinating how I can appreciate something like an overexposed photograph in some way now. Before, I would have seen this as a mistake and discard the shot straight away, without thinking of a possible meaning or use.


I am still unsure about which direction my assignment will take, since I need to experiment further. I somehow feel the urge to include a human element in this assignment as I would like to tell a story that works as an allegory to light from both the visual and conceptual points of view. I would like to use a strong natural light in my images and due to bad weather this will be impossible for a while, so I am still developing the ideas I have gathered in this post and I am hoping to find the right moment to continue testing a bit further before I decide on how to approach the assignment.

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