Simon Lewis

AOP Part Four

Light Throughout the Day

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Left to right: 6.30am 0.6s f4 ISO200, 6.45am 1/5s f4 ISO200, 7am 1/5s f4 ISO200

British weather and my work schedule made this exercise difficult. The days with continuos sunshine were work days and I was typically free on the days with cloud or persistent rain. After a few false starts I chose this sequence and while there was not constant direct sunshine throughout the day, I feel there was enough available during the start and ends of the days to complete the exercise successfully.

Images were captured at short intervals during daybreak and twilight of approx. 30 mins. and with roughly one hour gaps during the middle of the day.

Lighting is fairly bland and indistinct prior to sunrise which occurred at 6.43am on the day in question. Once the sun had risen and cleared the very tall trees approx. 100m to the left of the camera, lighting became more ‘direct’ with far less impact from reflected light. Colours became less blue.

From around 7.45am, shadow detail starts to become visible and my favourite image in the series was captured at 8.45am. Here shadows were distinct, and direct sun was hitting the cherry tree in the background to give a nice pink glow. Even though the sun was higher in the sky by 9.45am giving the potential for stronger colours and more direct light, the tree had lost much of the glow by then, proving that when planning to use the sun as a light source, timing is everything.

Unfortunately clouds covered the sky for much of the middle part of the day acting as a giant diffuser in front of the sun. Even so I suspect I would only have observed shadow movements during the middle of the day and no meaningful change in the colour or quality of the light.

Sunset was at 7.30pm. From 5pm the light began to change, evidenced initially by more direct light on the right side of the cherry tree. By 5.30pm there was a distinct shadow on the left side of the tree’s branches and petals. Had there been more direct sunlight in this portion of the day I feel the results during sunset would have been more obvious and interesting. Nonetheless it is possible to see shadows moving and lengthening. One can also see a colour shift until 7.30pm when blandness sets in again. At 8pm, 30 mins after sunset, light has failed and even with a programmed exposure, lighting has turned blue.

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Left to right: 7.10am 1/8s f5 ISO200, 7.20am 1/15s f5 ISO200, 7.30am 1/25s f5 ISO200

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Left to right: 7.45am 1/40s f5 ISO200, 8.45am 1/200s f5 ISO200, 9.45am 1/500s f5 ISO200

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Left to right: 11am 1/640s f5 ISO200, 12.15pm 1/640s f5 ISO200, 1.30pm 1/320s f9 ISO200

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Left to right: 2.45pm 1/320s f9 ISO200, 4pm 1/320s f9 ISO200, 5pm 1/250s f8 ISO200

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Left to right: 5.30pm 1/200 f7.1 ISO200, 6pm 1/160s f6.3 ISO200, 6.30pm 1/125 f5.6 ISO200

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Left to right: 7pm 1/60s f4 ISO200, 7.30pm 1/10s f2.8 ISO200, 8pm 4s f2.8 ISO200

Outdoors at Night

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7.25pm 1/60s f4 ISO 1000

Crying off a business dinner, I took my camera back to the White House and the surrounding streets for this exercise in shooting at night. From watching the light fade outside our lawyers office window the night before (must stay concentrated in business meetings!), I noted that light really began to fade just before 7pm, with total darkness setting in just after 7.30. I took my camera out at 6.30 in readiness...

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At 6.40 daylight is just beginning to wane. Building floodlights are only just starting to be switched on. I thought it would be interesting to photograph the US Treasury building both before twilight and after. The second image was shot at 7pm and shows a much bluer sky. The internally lit rooms are beginning to glow and one can start to ‘read’ the building floodlights - partly from the highlights to the edges of the frame but also from the resulting shadows.

A: 1/200s f3.5 ISO800 B: 1/30s f4 ISO1000

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1/25s f4 ISO1000

At 7.20 there’s still plenty of light in the sky, but it’s starting to fade. This allowed me to capture plenty of detail in the sky whilst allowing the horse & rider to stand out as silhouettes. The White House beyond is nicely illuminated.

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1/30s f4 ISO1000

At 7.30 the sky is turning nicely blue and adding a great sense of drama to the image, set off by the illuminated clock tower. The relatively slow shutter speed provides some blur as the cars whizz past.

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Left: 1/15s f4 ISO1000. Right: 1/10s f4.5 ISO1000

Here we can see the effect of floodlights on the building pillars. The light is quite orange and complements the blue sky nicely. What is interesting is how the areas within the building are seen to have a green cast.

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1/20s f5.3 ISO1000

7.35pm. Almost fully dark now. Just enough ambient light to reveal the two men in the foreground of the image. However the eye is led along the illuminated street to the floodlit Capitol (?) building in the distance.

Let’s hope my understanding of photography is better than my knowledge of American historical buildings...

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1/40s f4.5 ISO1000

Fully dark now and only artificial sources are available to provide illumination. In this image light is provided from the two main sources either side of the door, building floodlights and a certain amount of light from behind the camera. These provided a nice golden glow on the surface of the doors.

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Left: 1/15s f4.8 ISO1000. Right: 1/40s f4.5 ISO1000

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Left: 1/10s f4.5 ISO1000. Right: 1/10s f4 ISO1000

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1/13s f4.5 ISO1000

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Left: 1/40s f4 ISO1000. Right: 1/4s f4 ISO1000

These final two images are quite interesting. On the left I exposed for the inside of the market stalls. Although small, you can see the detail quite clearly. The adjacent trees are in silhouette and the building is dark - too dark perhaps. In the second image, I exposed for the building. Again the trees are in silhouette but with the increased exposure the market stalls are blown out with little detail still visible. So what is the best exposure? I tried a variety of shots in between, but could not find a perfect formula - basically it’s all subjective and a question of what the photographer wants to achieve.

Actually that last point really summarises this whole course - giving me the tools to wilfully control the outcome of my images... Nice.

Judging Colour Temperature II

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The images above are repeated from the previous exercise. The left image was shot in shade, the centre in direct sun the third in late afternoon with the question, what colour correction is needed, if any? I would regard the cloudy image a little on the cool/blue side and the sunset very distinctly warm/orange. But is the sunlit image neutral enough? As I have learnt, the midday sun has least colour influence it, but a lot of the answer has to do with the content and desired effect. One could argue - in this image - that there is insufficient colour in the image. Arguably the warmer image seems to work better not just despite but also because of the hue.

In the sequences below, 3 images were captured in direct sunlight during the middle of the day. In the next sequence all images were captured in shade. Finally, 3 images were taken in the late afternoon sun. In each sequence WB was set (left to right) to either daylight, cloud or auto.

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In isolation the individual images all look perfectly acceptable. But when comparing all images in a sequence the general rule is that the most appropriate WB setting for the prevailing lighting conditions is best. For example the flesh tones in all images above are most acceptable with WB set to the relevant setting for the conditions at the time.

In the 1st ‘sun’ sequence of 3, the 1st image is best (daylight WB). The cloud WB version is overly orange and the auto WB too grey.

In the second, ‘shade’ sequence it is the middle image that appears best (cloud WB) with the 1st seeming a little too glad and the last to green. In the last sequence I prefer the 1st image (daylight WB) in the sunset scene. Again the middle image is a little too warm - becoming unnatural almost. The auto WB version (to the right) grey and lacking ‘life’.

Exercise: Cloudy Weather & Rain

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1/320s f2.8 ISO640

Part ONE - SUNLIGHT & CLOUD

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Image 1: 1/200s f7.1 ISO800 55mm. Image 2: 1/100s f5.6 ISO800 55mm.
Image 3: 1/400s f8 ISO800 24mm. Image 4: 1/200s f7.1 ISO800 24mm.


There is a 2 stop difference between image 1 and image 2. Image 1 is brighter, warmer and ‘sunnier’ than image 2. There are various areas within the images where this is most noticeable. For example there is a wider tonal range in the centre tree trunk. The foliage to the left of frame is warmer and more defined (as a result of a wider depth of field caused by the smaller aperture). There are small areas of sun and shadow on the tarmac which is less pronounced in the shadier image. However the lighting on the car is more balanced and even in the ‘cloudy’, flatter image. The grass is a more natural shade of green and in fact all greens look more realistic.

There is also a 2 stop difference between images 3 & 4. The sky appears more suitable in the ‘sunny’ image (image 3). Here the colour seems more appropriate and the clouds more contrasty. The garden seems more appealing with suitable areas of interest picked out in the sunlight. If anything however I’d say the building suffers somewhat by being too ‘contrasty’. In image 4 the building seems more natural but in contrast the garden just seems flat and uninteresting. This image is greyer and bluer than the warmish tomes in image 3.

Below are two images taken on cloudy days:
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In each case the results would have changed dramatically if the images had been taken in direct sunlight. In the case of the first image, it is the overall ‘softness’ of the image content matched against the detailing of the ice crystals that are important. Direct sun would have cast shadows of sorts and changed the overall hue. The resulting light would have changed the overall blanket effect of the flat light. In the second image, the wrinkles on Leo’s face would have been deepened by the sun/shadow. This might have been an acceptable enhancement, but when matched with the velvety down of his fur could equally have destroyed the ‘gentle giant’ impression of the image captured ‘as is’.

Part TWO - OVERCAST DAY

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Left: 1/60s f5.6 ISO200. Centre: 1/200s f2.8 ISO200. Right: 1/320s f2.8 ISO640
In the sequence above, light is fully diffused by the solid blanket of cloud. In the right circumstances this should be regarded as an advantage, not the other way around. With careful exposure, even illumination allows rich colours to flourish (e.g. the green moss, pink handle and even the black tyre above). These could all suffer in stark, contrasty light. The even illumination does not cause images to look flat: there is distinct shadowing beneath the tree branches in the 1st image which demonstrates the round three-dimensional shape of the tree. The same is also true in the other images.

Part THREE - RAIN

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Left: 55mm 1/25s f2.8 ISO1600. Centre: 38mm 1/30s f2.8 ISO1600. Right: 40mm 1/40s f2.8 ISO1600
It’s official: according to today’s newspaper we’ve had one of the driest years on record. That’s why it’s taken me so long to add the train images. I’ve tried to be a little original with composition; raindrops, puddle (with rain-splashed reflected lamp) and looking back indoors. In each case I had to push ISO up into the upper limits as the daylight was fading fast. You can see this in the blue tones of each image. Nonetheless, the lesson here is that not only is there a good blanket of even shooting light but the rain also adds it’s own charm with reflections, refractions, drops and even a certain ‘mistiness’ to the whole surroundings. I’ll be out in the rain again as soon as there’s a little more light in the sky...

Higher and Lower Sensitivity

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The White House. Left: 1/40s f4.2 ISO 800 Right: 1/125s f4.2 ISO 1600

I have been to Washington DC a few times before on business, but have never stayed so close to the White House. It was only a 3 minute walk over from my hotel to Barack & Michelle’s place so I thought I’d pop round to say hello. They weren’t in. But as I had my camera with me, took the opportunity to complete this exercise. It was almost 7pm and the light was fading quickly. At ISO800 I could only manage 1/40s to capture the cyclist riding by. At ISO1600, I was able to push 1/125s, freezing the action going on around me.
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Left: 1/5s f11 ISO 200. Right: 1/60s f7.1 ISO 800

On a nearby corner I photographed this building and clock tower. At 1/5s (ISO200) the traffic is blurred. Pushing to ISO 800 allowed me to adjust to 1/60s
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Left: 1/5s f11 ISO 200. Right: 1/40s f11 ISO 1250
It was a similar story at this zebra crossing. Pushing the ISO helped freeze the pedestrians crossing. A virtually identical situation presented itself in the following images.

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Left: 1/13s f7.1 ISO 200. Right: 1/100s f7.1 ISO 800
Back at home, Jordan wanted help with his tree flips. The perfect opportunity to illustrate how ISO boosts sensitivity meaning higher shutter speeds...
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Left: 1/6s f2.8 ISO 200. Right: 1/40s f2.8 ISO 1000
Finally, Buster helps out with the last shot.
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Left: 1/25s f5 ISO 200. Right: 1/30s f10 ISO 1000

Being able to adjust sensitivity (ISO) certainly has it’s uses but it does have a cost: increased graininess. The images of the White House have similar levels of grain - the ISO was doubled. There is certainly more in one image than the other. However it is hard for me to accurately measure the difference with two fairly ‘flat’ images. The levels of grain in the darks and the neutrals appear to be equally coarse.

The images of Buster have the widest sensitivity range: from ISO 200 to ISO 1000, or 2 1/2 times. At lower magnification levels, both look about equal. However at 100% there is a significant difference. The most striking area is in the white/grey box stacked near the top of the picture. There is significantly more noise/grain in the high ISO image compared to the other. A good lesson.