Assignment Two: Digital Image Qualities

The assignment revolves around high-contrast scenes.  You will need to produce a set of photographs that demonstrate that you can pre-visualise how your camera ‘sees’ a scene.  The ability to anticipate how your camera sensor will render a scene will help you produce higher quality images, which will need less post-processing.

Part One

Choose a minimum of four situations from the following models:

  1. Street scene in the middle of a clear, sunny day – narrow streets and high buildings which cast deep, long shadows
  2. Indoor space in which the only available light is strong natural window light
  3. Photographing people in the shade while the background is in the sunshine, e.g. a group portrait in the shade of a tree
  4. Early morning or late evening landscapes with low-angle incident light
  5. Any backlit scene, whether in direct or indirect light
  6. Scenes which include objects of very different reflectivity, even in flat light such as an overcast day
  7. Indoor scenes illuminated by a single source of artificial light of high luminance e.g. a desk lamp
  8. A scene with strong incident dappled light.  These conditions are often found when photographing in a forest on a sunny day.

The locations and subject matter of the scenes that you photograph are up to you; the sample photographs provided are for reference only.  Whichever locations and topics you choose will need to offer lighting conditions equivalent to the above situations.

Submit three images for each of the four situations that you choose, that’s a total of 12 images.  You will need to decide the most appropriate metering mode and settings for your camera.  The file format that you are asked to shoot is high quality JPEG.  The aim is to get correctly exposed images straight out of the camera, with NO post-processing.  Even if you normally shoot RAW yo must shoot JPEG for this assignment.

Together with each set of images you need to submit brief written notes about the technical challenges that each situation presented, how you dealt with the high contrast scenes and the decisions that you took regarding camera settings and composition.  Your notes should analyse the differences between how you saw the scene, how you thought the camera would reproduce it, and how the camera sensor finally rendered it.

Part Two

Select one of the four situations that you chose to Part One and think about what the lighting conditions should be in order to reduce the contrast of the scenes that you photographed or even make them low contrast scenes.  Think about the different variables over which you can have certain control, such as choosing in which weather to shoot (overcast, for example), changing the composition (avoiding deep shadows) or having some additional sources of light (you can explore the possibilities of fill-in flash).

Once you have decided which conditions would result in low contrast scenes, photograph the same three images in your chosen situation in those conditions.  Submit these images together with a brief reflective commentary.

Reflection

Just a reminder to look at the assessment criteria again in the introduction.  Think about how well you have done against the criteria and make notes in your learning log.  Email your work to your tutor, together with your sketchbook and learning log.

NB: details of the assessment criteria are found at the end of this assignment.

Introduction to Assignment

It is always with much anticipation and dread that I reach the assignment at the end of a module.  At the beginning of my studies, I always have such great plans to make sure that I have plenty of time to get the work done and that I will meet my tutors deadline with more than enough time to spare.  Having already moved my completion date by a month, I found myself once again flapping around to get the work finished.  An unexpected trip had shown its hand, so I wanted to get my work completed and submitted well before the June 28th deadline, then the weather here in Korea turned and I struggled to get my shots taken in time!  Nevertheless, I have managed the 12-image requirement plus a few extra, but more of that as I work through the assignment.

The brief

When I read the brief for this assignment I was really pleased to see that although we had set scenarios to capture, we had free rein on ‘the how’, ‘the when’ and ‘the were’ for taking our images.  Originally, I had lots of plans to find some theme lead situations, and perhaps try something a little different and tackle those titles that were if not new, then different to what I usually take photos of.  However, with both the time and now the weather against me, I decided to do what in my mind, I do best and take generic landscape images against those situations I could coup with easily.  However, I have submitted photos against a fifth topic, which is outside of my usual photographic ability and an added bonus against the material for this assignment.

I have chosen to submit my images against the following four titles:

  1. Street scene in the middle of a clear, sunny day – narrow streets and high buildings which cast deep, long shadows
  2. Any backlit scene, whether in direct or indirect light
  3. Scenes which include objects of very different reflectivity, even in flat light such as an overcast day
  4. A scene with strong incident dappled light.  These conditions are often be found when photographing in a forest on a sunny day.

With an additional set of images against the title:

  1. Indoor scenes illuminated by a single source of artificial light of high luminance e.g. a desk lamp

As with all assignments, the goal is to show our understanding of what we have learnt during the previous modules work, and for this assignment, the biggest challenge will be to produce high quality JPEG images, directly out of our camera, with no post processing being conducted …

You will need to decide the most appropriate metering mode and settings for your camera.  The file format that you are asked to shoot is high quality JPEG.  The aim is to get correctly exposed images straight out of the camera, with NO post-processing.  Even if you normally shoot RAW you must shoot JPEG for this assignment.”

As I shoot in manual, using my aperture, shutter speed and ISO to govern my exposure, I have continued to do this during my assignment photo-shoots.

Although the requirement for this assignment is to submit high quality JPEG images that have received no post-processing tweaks or workings, where relevant, I have been and taken out water marks and dust spots, which are currently being captured by my lens and is an issue I am looking to rectify.  I did check with my tutor before doing this, and was given the green light to go ahead and make these slight changes.

Equipment

For this assignment, I used the following photographic equipment:

    • Nikon D800
    • Nikkor 28-300 mm Telephoto Lens
    • Tripod
    • Portable studio

Part One – High Contrast Images

Street scene in the middle of a clear, sunny day

My first image shows a typical Korean street scene, taken just after lunchtime, when people are beginning to wake up, and the streets begin to come alive.

Downtown Ulsan Shutter Speed 1/200; Aperture F9; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Downtown Ulsan
Shutter Speed 1/200; Aperture F9; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

This scene is full of vibrancy and colour, which is exactly what I wanted to capture, so metered on the black DVD sign, sitting in the shade, just off to the right of centre frame. My reason for doing this was to make sure that the scene was well exposed and that the darker areas of the image were well lit and visible within the frame.

This has worked well for the most part, although there are areas of discreet clipped highlights, which can be found in the white car at the front of the shot and those high-spot white areas being caught by the sun.  I did anticipate this, so checked my histogram and built-in clipping facility to keep this under control.

Downtown Ulsan Histogram

Downtown Ulsan Histogram

I decided to use an aperture of F9 here so that I could achieve clarity throughout the image and capture as much contrast as possible, confirmed by the histogram reading.

The scene is well framed, with lots of things going on to keep the viewer busy, although I do not like the dead space in the front of the photo, which if given the chance I would have cropped out making the scene a little more compact.  An example of how I would do this has been included in the appendices.

My next image is not a typical street scene, but a scene quiet typical of the landscape here in Korea.  Here we have the tall reaching trunks and heavy canopy of foliage from a well-established local bamboo forest.

Bamboo Canopy Shutter Speed 1/25; Aperture F4.8; Focal Length 62mm; ISO160; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Bamboo Canopy
Shutter Speed 1/25; Aperture F4.8; Focal Length 62mm; ISO160; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Although the weather was very dull and overcast outside of the forest, the vibrancy of the bamboo can make this a very light and bright space to work in, and I wanted to capture the eeriness of the trunks against the glorious leaves reaching for the sky.

Originally, I set my ISO to 500, as I wanted to ensure that I could handhold my camera, allowing me the flexibility of movement and therefore the different types of image I could capture.  However, when doing this, the images were coming out very bright and the greens very yellow, so I tried a few more settings and settled on an ISO of 160 to capture my shots.

Initially, to achieve what my camera thought was the correct exposure; the recommended metering was to shoot at just manageable handheld shutter speeds.  These settings were still producing images that were bright and garish, but by increasing my shutter speed, I have been able to balance the colour within the forest and create a sense of shadow as the light bounces off the bright green foliage above.

I took two or three shots of this scene, checking both my LCD image and histogram to make sure that I had not over exposed the shot in any area, and although this is well exposed, as expected, there is very slight clipping in the sky and the light through the trunks behind the bench.  If I had taken this shot on a sunny day, I would not have received the same results, and I think this exact same image would have been far too bright and the colours too green and over exposed.

My third street scene image was taken as the sun began to wane towards the horizon, producing much longer shadows than previously seen; although it can be difficult to find these kind of images as the buildings are very close together, so shadows tend to be ‘up’ rather than on the floor.  If you look at this shot, you can see some elongated shadows towards the top of the apartment block (my apartment block).

Rising Giants Shutter Speed 1/1000; Aperture F3.5; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Rising Giants
Shutter Speed 1/1000; Aperture F3.5; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

The metering for this image is concentrated on the grey brick of the apartment block situated to the right of the crane.  Shooting with the sun coming into the frame from the right has meant that my shutter speed for this shot is quiet high, throwing the building in the foreground and everything facing away from the sun into shadow.

This image is a little lighter than I would have liked it to be, although the histogram confirms that this is a very contrasty shot.  The histogram also confirms the over exposed areas, which can be found in the expanse of sky to the right of the image, and on the left tower block that faces the sun.  This is an expected aspect of the shot, and I was surprised that more of the sky was not over exposed.

Rising Giants Histogram

Rising Giants Histogram

I have stood quiet close to the building here, although I could have gotten in a little closer; I like the way the buildings are beginning to bend into the centre of the frame just a little.  I used the widest focal length my lens would allow, but by going wider and closer, I would have achieved a more abstract shot.

Any backlit scene, whether in direct or indirect light

Taking photographs of flowers is one of my favourite things and the more abstract I can make these images the better.

Afternoon Glory Shutter Speed 1/800; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 210mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Afternoon Glory
Shutter Speed 1/800; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 210mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Although the sun is not low behind this sunflower, the light is coming into the back of the image, which has really lightened the petals and produced some interesting shadows on both the petals and the leaves.

I moved in as close as possible to the flower so that I could have the head fill all of the frame, but I could not quiet achieve this (due to focal length and angle), so the final image is not quiet as I wanted it to be.  Given the opportunity, I would have liked to crop just a little more so that the edges of the sunflower’s head were touching the outside edge of the frame on each side, and an example of my desired crop is found in the appendices at the end of this document.

My original metering was concentrated on the centre of the flower, but this returned a shutter speed of 1/60, making the overall image very bright and the colours of the sunflower almost fluorescent.  By increasing my shutter speed considerably, I was just able to maintain the detail at the centre of the frame, and highlight the delicate ribbons within the petals.  Using the widest aperture I could, I combined this with a longer focal length which has compressed the background, throwing the detail out of focus, which I am really pleased with as this further highlights the sunflower, which is the centre of attention in this shot.

When I saw this next shot, I was keen to include it in my assignment as I think it is something very different to what I normally produce and a different take on the title of this segment.

The Back of Beyond Shutter Speed 1/100; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 150mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

The Back of Beyond
Shutter Speed 1/100; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 150mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Whilst vetting possible images, it had been my original plan to stand inside the tunnel and take a photograph looking out onto the river, but as it was a dull and overcast morning, I could not get the shot I had in mind to work.  That was when I saw this image and started setting up the scene.

The hardest thing to get right was the framing and although I thought I had my horizontal and vertical lines right, I can see now that they are ever so slightly off.

I had been toying with the idea of including a silhouette in my image, so when the lady walked through the tunnel I worked quickly to include her in the frame; and I am glad I have been able to include this as it breaks the image up into specific sections.  It was difficult to get the lighting right here as I knew the scene would be dark, but I wanted to include the reflections down the sides of the tunnel and the street scene at the end.  My point of metering was the central barrier in the back of the frame.

When setting up the shot, the shutter speed was producing images that were a little too bright for the atmosphere I was trying to create, but by zooming in just a little and taking some of the light away from the surrounding area has darken this shot without the need of increasing my shutter speed.

The final image I have chosen for this category is of a trees canopy, backlit by the sun.

Peeping Through Shutter Speed 1/2500; Aperture F4.5; Focal Length 44mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Peeping Through
Shutter Speed 1/2500; Aperture F4.5; Focal Length 44mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

To highlight the leaves toward the front of the frame and throw the trunk into shadow, I metered this shot on the cluster of leaves in the centre of the frame.  As I was shooting into the sun, and the shutter speed was so fast, my first few images came our very dark with very little detail.  By reducing my shutter speed, which is still seen as fast, and hiding the sun behind a thicker cluster of leaves, I have been able to pick out enough detail to make the shot more interesting, and show a little flaring around the suns orange globe.

The histogram dictates that this shot is very dark, but the spike to the right confirms that the sun and the immediate sky around it is over exposed, which is completely expected and an unavoidable element of this photo.

Peeping Through Histogram

Peeping Through Histogram

Again, if given the opportunity, I would clone out the tree in the bottom right of the frame.  This is a different kind of tree, so the leaves are different to those that are the subject of this shot; this spoils the overall effect of the photo a little, and I think that by having this corner with just blue sky would finished of the shot nicer.

Scenes that include objects of very different reflectivity

Firstly, I have chosen two similar images for this category.  The first, shown here, is of a tree and its reflection in the river.

The morning of my first photo-shoot rose very cloudy and murky and I was not sure whether I would be able to get any usable photos during my initial outing, but I saw this shot, and really liked the symmetry of the scene.

Seeing Double Shutter Speed 1/160; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 180mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Seeing Double
Shutter Speed 1/160; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 180mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Getting the balance right in the photo was paramount, as although the atmosphere was murky, the trees and surrounding areas were lush and vibrant from the overnight rain.  I metered on the tree’s trunk, which is slightly off centre; this gave me a respectable shutter speed for the conditions, although I did slow this down further by one-stop, just to allow for a little more detail to be captured by the camera’s sensor.  I had previously tried to change my White Balance to reflect the overcast conditions, but the image came back a little too orange, which did not render the way the scene looked to the human eye.

Seeing Double Histogram

Seeing Double Histogram

The thing I like about the reflection here is that although the shape is perfect and the mirroring in the river is well framed, the actual reflection is a little fuzzy, which contrasts well against the crispness of the tree and foliage along the river bank.  Although there are very bright highlights running through parts of the river, the image is not only well exposed, but also of high contrast, which is confirmed by the histogram produced by this shots.

My next image is also of the river, but this time the subject concentrates on a formation of apartment blocks, bridges and buildings.

Comic Relief Shutter Speed 1/250; Aperture F4.8; Focal Length 68mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Comic Relief
Shutter Speed 1/250; Aperture F4.8; Focal Length 68mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

This image is very similar to my first in this category, but lacks the vibrant colours of the previous shot, with the symmetry of above being reflected in the waters below, this time the waters are not as calm as before, so the ripples are creating a wavy, almost comic effect of the building’s reflection.

The conditions of this shot are almost identical to the previous image; I have metered on the buildings central to the frame, with the sun not only behind me, but also behind heavy cloud, which is having a diffusing effect.

Comic Relief Histogram

Comic Relief Histogram

The detail in the river is more contrasty than the actual buildings; this can be seen in the histogram below, which has a similar shape to the previous shot, but the lower peaks advise that the tonal range is more evenly spread through the image; although there are peaks that have recorded the information around and under the bridge.  This makes for good effect, but the upper detail is a little lost, perhaps I should have slowed my shutter speed a little to enable the sensor to darken the buildings a little more.  In addition, I could have used a graduated or ND filter to highlight more detail in the sky and the tops of the taller buildings.  That said, underneath the bridge is well exposed and the detail is quiet prominent.  This shot is well framed, which is why it caught my eye, with lots of design elements included such as horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines.

The final image in this category is completely different, different subject, different lighting conditions.

Reflective Shutter Speed 1/250; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 250mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Reflective
Shutter Speed 1/250; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 250mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

What initially struck me about the possibility of this image was the sun shinning on and highlighting the turned alloy wheel.  Once this had caught my eye, I then saw the reflections in the paintwork and the shadows being cast by the sun as it started to dip towards the horizon.

As expected, there are clipped highlights present in the cars light and the alloy wheel, which is an unavoidable bi-product due to the position of the sun and the reflectiveness of the cars material.  My metering point here was the badge in the centre of the wheel, which initially returned a reading of 1/320, but by zooming in further and reducing this by one-stop, I was able to include a little more reflective detail in the blackness of the paintwork.

My thinking behind the set up of this image was to make the shinny parts of the car really stand out, throwing the darker parts into more shadow.  This has worked, as although there are areas where the scene is outside of my camera’s dynamic range, which is okay as it helps to frame the image more and highlight the brighter parts further.

Looking at the image now, I can see that a slight crop is needed not only to the left and right of the car, but also at the top and bottom of the frame, as there is detail present that I could not see when looking through my view finder.  I have included a cropped alternate of this image in the cropped images appendix.  Apart from these small changes, I think the shot works well and the reflections are prominent in the nice shiny black car.

A scene with strong incident dappled light

Unfortunately, we do not live close by to any major forests (apart from the bamboo forest that appeared earlier), but lucky for me there is lots of greenery and trees in Ulsan that, when the sun is high, cast lost of lovely dappled light.

Amazing Azalea Shutter Speed 1/320; Aperture F3.5; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Amazing Azalea
Shutter Speed 1/320; Aperture F3.5; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

I like this kind of image as the light can provide some interesting shapes and shadows, and here I have managed to capture a shot of an amazing azalea bush, with a small part of its foliage in sunshine and the main in shadow.

This can be a hard shot to get right as there is a need to include subtle detail in the light, and maintain as much information as possible in the shadows without producing any noise.  I have concentrated my metering on the brightest flower, which is just to the left of centre in the frame and although the sun has began to wane, it is still quiet high in the sky behind me, so it is strong enough to penetrate the thick foliage above.

Originally, I shot this at 1/250 and although the foliage in the shadows was brighter, the petals of the azalea and the background were far too bright and a little clipped.  Increasing my shutter speed by 3-stops (1/500) produced an image that was on the dark side, with a well exposed background, so settling on a shutter speed of 1/320 has balanced out the dark against the light and maintained good colour balance throughout.  It was my intention to fill the frame with as much bush as possible, but by including the cyclist in the background has an added vantage point to the final image.

This next image was quiet difficult to capture, as I had to balance low to frame the shot how I wanted it, and it was quiet difficult exposing the shot to get the green leaves looking right and the rocks the right colour.

Lush Shutter Speed 1/500; Aperture F3.8; Focal Length 35mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Lush
Shutter Speed 1/500; Aperture F3.8; Focal Length 35mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

To set my exposure, I used the light, almost dead leaves, just below the centre of the shot; but the original reading (1/320) gave me an image that was far too bright, loosing the effect of the dappled light, and highlighting too much detail in the frame.  However, speeding up my shutter by just two-stops has enabled me to capture the lighting effect as it creates some interesting shapes and shadows on the stone floor.

For this shot, I was shooting towards the sun, which has elongated the shadows towards the camera, enhancing them to enrich the image. Using the faster shutter speed has also captured clarity in the frame, which helped as there was a slight breeze moving the grasses ever so gently.  I like how the lit leaves are really bright and pop out of the image, and the darker areas seem to highlight this even more.

Being in the shade, I tried to use the shady White Balance setting, but as seen before, this created an orange colour caste, making the foliage look completely wrong.

Lastly, I have included what I think is my favourite image of those included in this assignment.  Although similar to the previous shot, this has been taken down by the river, with the setting sun behind me, casting a warm light onto the grasses of the riverbank.

Warm Grasses Shutter Speed 1/125; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 150mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Warm Grasses
Shutter Speed 1/125; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 150mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

It took several attempts to get the colours of the grass right here and as it was quiet a breezy afternoon, I was lucky that the shutter speed governed by my metering has been able to freeze most of the movement in the frame.  I moved position quiet a few times, as there were dead grasses and plastic bottles in the picture that I did not want to include and spoil things.

Warm Grasses Histogram

Warm Grasses Histogram

Here I have metered against the darker grass in the top of the frame, which has lightened some of the detail in the background and highlighted the sun soaked grass in the centre of the shot.  Once again, to get this looking right, I had to increase my shutter speed by two-stops to slightly under expose the image, otherwise the light on the grasses produced heavily clipped highlights and made the green look very strange and almost yellow (as seen previously in the bamboo forest).  This can be seen in the histogram, which confirms that the shot lies within my camera’s dynamic range and that it tends towards being under exposed, although it is not as the graph is not pushed entirely up against the left-hand side.

This shot actually feels more like an autumnal image than a summer one, but I just enjoy the luminance and the lush colours within the frame.

Bonus Material

I found myself at a loose end, wondering what I could do as the rain poured and the hands on the clock almost stopped.  Not wanting to waste the perfect opportunity, I decided to give the ‘Indoor Scenes Illuminated by a Single Source of Artificial Light’ a go and was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Having played around with my portable studio a few times now, I wanted to see what images I could produce using one single light source, but moving it around to change its lighting influence on the subject(s) being used.

I was also keen to try my hand at photographing a candle as I have seen this done before, and wanted to see if I could replicate some of the images.

Equipment

For these photographs, I used the following equipment:

    • Nikon D800
    • Nikkor 28-300 mm Telephoto Lens
    • Tripod
    • Portable studio with a single light source
    • Candle

Indoor scenes illuminated by a single source of artificial light of high luminance

Setting up my portable studio (the one which I used during the highlight clipping exercises) and a single light source, I went about photographing three different models using three different lighting scenarios.

The first photo is something I have dabbled with before, but not with my current studio set up or the ability to stage and light a scene as I wanted too.  The glass is full of tap water and the effect achieved by adding a small block of dry ice.  Before starting, I conducted various experiments with exposure, White Balance and background colour.  Placing my single light source directly in front of the diffused wall to the right has made the light harsh – the effect I was looking for.

Fire & Ice Shutter Speed 1/2; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 122mm; ISO100; WB Cool White Fluorescent; Spot Metering

Fire & Ice
Shutter Speed 1/2; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 122mm; ISO100; WB Cool White Fluorescent; Spot Metering

My initial metering concentrated on part of the glass that is not visible in the final shot; so original tests came back dark, with only subtle highlights visible. Of course, this changed once the smoke and bubbles were introduced as the larger mass, spread around the frame created more light to brighten the image.  Changing the White Balance to Cool White Fluorescent shows the best representation of the scene, as the other settings made the shot too orange and less appealing.  The icy white of CWF has given the shot a crisp almost clinical feel and using exceptionally slow shutter speeds has blurred the lines and given the whole shot a sense of movement.  I am very pleased with the outcome of this image.

Using the same studio set up, I changed my model and used the porcelain figurine, which was very prominent during my TAOP coursework.

Again, I experimented extensively with this subject before I was happy with the final image results.

Tungsten Bathing Shutter Speed 0.6; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 150mm; ISO100; WB Tungsten; Spot Metering

Tungsten Bathing
Shutter Speed 0.6; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 150mm; ISO100; WB Tungsten; Spot Metering

In this image, I have metered on the figurines mouth, as this was the closest point to the camera and the main part of the image I wanted to be lit.  I moved my light source quiet a way from the diffused side of the studio, making it even softer than before and concentrated on getting the right side of the image in light and the left side in shadow.

For this shot, I have changed the White Balance to the Tungsten setting as although the CFW image looked okay, this new setting has produced the best representation of the overall colour, or colour balance.

I like how the light is hitting the raised parts of the subject to the right of the frame, making this really stand out against the darker parts of the image to the left of the frame.  If you look closely, you can see the complete outline of the figure and an added bonus is the detail that is just present behind the model.

It took quiet a lot of effort to get this image, but the results are better than what I was hoping for.

Finally, I have submitted an image of a candle that has no additional light source to aid with its illumination.

Eerie Light Shutter Speed 1/20; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 190mm; ISO100; WB Cool White Fluorescent; Spot Metering

Eerie Light
Shutter Speed 1/20; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 190mm; ISO100; WB Cool White Fluorescent; Spot Metering

This shot was difficult to achieve as I had to meter on the brightest part of the scene, which was the candlewick. I did this, as I wanted this area be the central point of focus in the image.

I struggle a little getting clarity in the light as I did not want to decrease my shutter speed too much; doing this would illuminate the studio for longer, thus bringing more of the candles holder into the frame.

In addition, I had to contend with an occasional flicker, something that always seems present with lit candles.  This has produced not only a slight blurring in the flame, but also a second light has been captured, which gives the image a spooky feel – something I was hoping to somehow achieve.  Building on this, I like how the candle seems to be floating in mid-air, as all you can see is the slightest hint of the glass rim where the candle is contained.  Given the opportunity, I would not crop this image in anyway; I like the effect exactly as it is present here.

The cool white fluorescent White Balance setting seemed to produce the best overall colour balance in this image, as the tungsten setting made the candle too bright and the sunny setting was far too orange and garish.

Part Two – Low Contrast Scenes

Select one of the four situations that you chose in Part One and think about what the lighting conditions should be in order to reduce the contrast of the scenes that you photographed or even make them low contrast scenes.  Think about the different variables over which you can have certain control, such as choosing in which weather to shoot (overcast, for example), changing the composition (avoiding deep shadows) or having some additional sources of light (you can explore the possibilities of fill-in flash).

Once you have decided which conditions would result in low contrast scenes, photograph the same three images in your chosen situation in those conditions.  Submit these images together with a brief reflective commentary.

Firstly, I seem to have missed this part of the assignment and it is only now, more than three-quarters of the way through my work have I found this additional requirement.  This therefore means that I am not able to complete the assignment fully and as required – I am back in the UK with no access to the locations or facilities I used for my photo-shoots – but I can make comment on this part of the assignment and outline how I would make changes to reduce the contrast in my images.

Looking through the work selected for this assignment, quiet surprisingly those images taken in lower light situations have produced scenes with some of the highest contrast images.  For example, the histogram below represents the first image presented under the title Scenes That Include Objects of Very Different Reflectivity.

The histogram looks this way because of the amount of detail captured in the shot.  This detail is found in both the greenery and building above the reflection as well as within the reflection itself.

Seeing Double Histogram

Seeing Double Histogram

An example of a different level of contrast can be found in the first image of this assignment, included under the title ‘Street Scene In The Middle Of A Clear, Sunny Day’.

Downtown Ulsan Histogram

Downtown Ulsan Histogram

The histogram here is more elongated than the previous example, showing this scene to be contrasty across the whole of my camera’s dynamic range.

As discussed during our histogram project and exercises, back during the workflow module of DPP, contrast is:

“The measure of the difference in brightness between light and dark areas in a scene” Cambridge in Colour

We therefore see contrast as the difference between light and dark; high contrast depicts an extreme difference between the two, whereas we depict low contrast as a gradual or even lesser difference.    Visually, we see contrast as deep shadow, or as detail that jumps out of the page due to the extremes between the darkest or lightest parts of an image; a broad or wider histogram is produced for scenes of this nature, we would also include texture or bold detail in this category.  On the reverse, when less contrast is present, such as in a scene dominated by one colour or one where little detail or texture has been captured, a narrow peaked histogram is produced.

As contrast is the bi-product of light, there are ways in which we can exclude this from our images, for example, we can use different weather conditions to diffuse light, or take advantage of shady areas to block light from our scene.  We can also change position and move around so that the available light hits the scene in a different direction.  Exposure also has an influence on the contrast captured in our images as an under exposed shot will produce more contrast than one that has been over exposed; so using slower shutter speeds to flood our images with light will create less contrast and tonal range.  We could also introduce fill-flash to our photographs to diminish contrast.

Another consideration to ponder is the type of lens we will use, as some lenses are better at capturing contrast than others are.  It is widely discussed that zoom lenses usually offer images with lower contrast than prime lenses and this is so because a prime lens will allow more light to entre your sensor over a zoom lens, whose lowest aperture is usually around F3-5.6.

For my two image examples, to reduce the contrast in my first image I would try the following:

Seeing Double Shutter Speed 1/160; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 180mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Seeing Double

Firstly, I would change my position so that the light no longer bounced of the water, thus removing the highlights and texture in the river.

I would slow my shutter speed by at least one-stop, allowing more light to penetrate the darker areas of the scene, thus removing the shadows.

By changing the composition, I could decrease the light hitting the water, and by zooming in a little more I could eradicate the brightness in the sky and apartment blocks.

Perhaps by taking a step back and increasing my focal length, I could capture a little more atmosphere in the shot, making it a little softer and less punchy.

As I am not able to revisit the scene to put these changes into practice, I have had a little play in Photoshop, cropped my image, lightened my exposure and decreased my contrast, just to see what these changes made.

Seeing Double Altered

Seeing Double Altered

If this had been what I saw upon uploading my images, I would not have picked this shot for my assignment as although it is nice enough, it just dose not have the same appeal as the original.

There is also quiet a difference in the new histogram for this image as the peak has not only become narrower, but it has also moved over to the left of the graph, indicating that this image now tends towards being darker and a little under exposed.

Seeing Double New Histogram

Seeing Double New Histogram

I know that this is not a true representation of what could happen if I had taken a new photograph, but this is a good indication of how contrast in an image makes things look so very different.

My second example is from the Street Scene category and is a completely different shot to the one shown previously.  This is a very vibrant photo, with lost of colour and a good representation of tones across the histogram.  To make this into an image with less contrast, I would try the following options:

Downtown Ulsan Shutter Speed 1/200; Aperture F9; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Downtown Ulsan

Firstly, I would look at taking this photo on a day that was overcast, or perhaps even foggy, as this will then reduce the colours and mute the shadows cast by the high-noon sun.

Changing position and concentrating on a different part of the scene would change the dynamic of the shot.

Perhaps using a diffusing filter to dull down the image would mute the colours and the tonal range.

By decreasing the shutter speed and slightly over exposing the shot would take away some of the darker areas of the image.

Again, due to my circumstances I have played with Photoshop to produce something similar to the changes mentioned here.

Downtown Ulsan Altered

Downtown Ulsan Altered

The changes to this image are very similar to the changes I would make to the first shot, and again if this had been the first image I produced it would not have been included in the assignment.

Conclusion:

I actually found this exercise considerably easy to conduct as up until very recently I had been shooting in JPEG and had learnt how to get my exposure right, without the aide of post processing procedures.  However, during my photo-shoots, there were a couple of scenarios where I struggled (dappled light and reflective), and it took me a few attempts to get the results I was looking for. This is not such a bad thing, but it does slow my photography down a little.

There were a couple of shots where my composition was off, and I feel that I could have framed things a little better in camera; there were also a few instances where I felt that cropping was needed after the event.  These issues confirm to me that I am thinking a little less about my composition at the time of shooting and becoming a little too reliant on my post-processing tweaking’s to get this part of my imagery right.

Another issue, and something that was out of my hands was the weather; I seem to be relying on the sunshine to assist me with the illumination of my images much more than before.  Although some of the photos I taken during this assignment have shown me that there are times when good images can be achieved, even if the sun is not shining.

The more I photograph, the more I am learning about my camera and recently I have found two issues I am beginning to overcome.  When setting my exposure, the built-in meter on my camera is forcing me to over expose my shots.  To compensate for this, I have to increase my shutter speed by one and sometimes two stops, which can be a pain, but I am getting used to this and find that I automatically make these changes without thinking about it too much.

Secondly, the image my camera produces for viewing in my LCD screen is much brighter than the results I receive when uploading my shots to my computer.  I know that this image is a compressed JPEG, but I find that the difference between the two images is vast and it has tripped me up a couple of times recently.

Therefore, all in all this assignment and the exercises that preceded it have taught me quiet a lot.  I have learnt how my camera works and I now have a fundamental understanding of the internal process it conducts to produce my images.  I have learnt how to control the brightest and darkest parts of a scene, and I have an idea on how far I can push my camera to get the results I want.  And I think the most interesting thing these past few months of study have show me is how light and colour balance can have a major influence on our images.  It has been a good module and I look forward to carrying these lessons forward.


Appendix I – Cropped Images

During the work on this assignment, I commented on a few images, stating that given the opportunity I would have cropped them during my usual post-processing, but the brief of the assignment stated that we were not able to do this.  Given the opportunity, below are the images I though would benefit from a slight crop.

Afternoon Glory

Afternoon Glory with Suggested Crop

Afternoon Glory with Suggested Crop

The changes to the image ‘Afternoon Glory’ are very subtle.  I have cropped in very close to the head of the sunflower, making the petals at bottom of the shot mirror those at the top.  To tighten things even more, I have cropped a little of the detail to both the left and right of the image, making the centre of the sunflower the central point within the frame.

By doing this I feel that the image is more symmetrical and the closer crop enables you to see the detail in the leaves a little more.  While taking the photo, if I had thought a little more about my composition, I would have either moved over or removed the plant to the left of the sunflower so that it was the only object in the photograph.

Reflective

Again, as with the previous image I have made only subtle changes to the composition of ‘Reflective’.

Reflective with Suggested Crop

Reflective with Suggested Crop

The changes here are only cosmetic, as I have cropped out the edge of the grill to the left of the frame and the edge of the light to the right.

I have also cropped millimetres away at the top and bottom of the photo, just to bring the car in tight.

I could have addressed these small changes at the time of shooting, by being mindful of what is included in the frame and not being too hasty to get the shot.

This is not as much of an issue with my composition as it used to be, but there are still times when I need to stop and think a little more and conducting this exercise has once again brought this to the front of my mind.

Downtown Ulsan

Finally, we have the image ‘Downtown Ulsan’ and as with the previous two shots, the changes made very subtle and the product of cosmetic satisfaction.

Downtown Ulsan with Suggested Crop

Downtown Ulsan with Suggested Crop

Here I have cropped out the dead space in front of the white car.  We did not need this area and it adds nothing to the shot.  Unfortunately, I would not have been able to achieve this at the time of shooting as doing so would have changed other aspects of this image, especially in showing the height of the buildings.

The crop has brought things a little closer to the front of the images, which has enhanced the shot just a little and made it easier to see what is going on in the background.

Appendix II – Alternate images

It is always difficult to find the right images for an assignment, and this time round I found it even more so.  Perhaps I am taking better photos now, or perhaps I was just lucky with my choice of titles.

Below I have included some additional photos that although I did not choose to represent my work this time round, I still feel are good enough to warrant a mention.

Any backlit scene, whether in direct or indirect light

Taken in the bamboo forest, I really like the effect of the light in this photo.  It did not make the grade for the assignment as I feel it is a little too bright and the composition is a little off.  A tighter crop of the leaves to the right would of made this photo much better.  I tried lots of different angles and settings to get this shot, but unfortunately, on the day I could not get it to work how I wanted it too.

Shutter Speed 1/4; Aperture F5.3; Focal Length 90mm; ISO160; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Shutter Speed 1/4; Aperture F5.3; Focal Length 90mm; ISO160; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

I have taken the next backlit image down by the river, and it is a shot that I really like.  The thing that lets it down and the reason that I have not included it in my assignment is the green leaf in front centre.

Shutter Speed 1/500; Aperture F5.3; Focal Length 300mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Shutter Speed 1/500; Aperture F5.3; Focal Length 300mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

At first, this leaf is not easy to see, but once you have found it the eye keeps returning to it, which really spoils the shot.  Another pedantic issue is the building in the far left of the frame – this would need cropping out.

A scene with strong incident dappled light

Of all the photos I took in this category, I think this one shows dappled lighting at its best.  The colours are strong, with prominent areas of light and dark.

Shutter Speed 1/320; Aperture F3.5; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Shade; Spot Metering

Shutter Speed 1/320; Aperture F3.5; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Shade; Spot Metering

This image was not included in the assignment, as I did not feel the subject matter was appropriate and to be honest, when I took the shot I did not really think about composition as in my mind I never intended on including it in the body of work.

I think this is one of very few photographs I have taken where using a White Balance setting appropriate to the actual light conditions has worked.  Here I used the shade WB setting, and it has really brought out the colours and ambience of the image.  If I had thought more closely about this shot I would have changed my position so that the bared windows were straighter, doing this would have made the drain covers more aligned and the subject matter would have been more appealing.

Again, the next image shows a strong case for dappled light, but I feel that the subject matter does not quiet fit into the assignment.

Shutter Speed 1/1250; Aperture F4.5; Focal Length 56mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Shutter Speed 1/1250; Aperture F4.5; Focal Length 56mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Quiet simply, this car was sitting at the roadside, underneath some trees and as the afternoon sun beats through these leaves, this great pattern has been left behind.

My thoughts behind this shot are the same as before, I saw the light effect but did not really think about the composition (or subject matter) of the shot.  If given a second chance at this I would straighten the car and pull out a little to include the light on the road surrounding it.

Scenes that include objects of very different reflectivity

I like the composition of this next photograph, although the tower block is sloping a little to the right!

Shutter Speed 1/400; Aperture F5.3; Focal Length 98mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Shutter Speed 1/400; Aperture F5.3; Focal Length 98mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

There is a vibrancy in the foliage at the foot of this image, and my focus has been concentrated on the reflection in the middle of the frame, but the buildings in the background are a little on the soft side, which makes the shot look a little wishy-washy.  My intention here was to highlight the reflection of the buildings in the river, but it was a breezy morning so there were constant ripples in the water, therefore I was not able to get the desired effect in the frame.

This next shot is again taken down by the river and shows some interesting patterns and highlights reflected in the water.  The histogram states that this shot tends towards being over exposed, and that the high-spots are not clipped or over exposed, which is surprising due to the brightness in these area.

Shutter Speed 1/80; Aperture F5.3; Focal Length 122mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Shutter Speed 1/80; Aperture F5.3; Focal Length 122mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Although this image shows good reflective content, as with other shots I have included in this appendix, the subject matter is a little boring and not appropriate for submission in an assignment.  If I could have included either a bird or perhaps a rower, then this shot could have definitely made the grade.

Street scene in the middle of a clear, sunny day

These next two images have really captured the streets of Ulsan well, but I find they are a little too busy, especially when you look up in each shot.

Shutter Speed 1/250; Aperture F9; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Shutter Speed 1/250; Aperture F9; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

One of the biggest issues I find in Korea is the amount of ‘stuff’ that seems to be everywhere.  There are lots of colourful signs, lots of cars and people and when looking up there are lots of poles and wires.

This first shot is great and really meets the need of the assignment perfectly, but the angle of the electricity pole looks wrong.  When I tried to rectify this in camera, the other buildings then looked out of place, so I could not quiet get it to look right.  If I could have mastered the composition, then this would have definitely been included in the assignment.

Shutter Speed 1/1000; Aperture F3.5; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Shutter Speed 1/1000; Aperture F3.5; Focal Length 28mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

As with the previous shot, this next imaged ticked all of the boxes in the assignment brief, but I could not get the composition right from this angle.  As you can see, the streets of Korea are very lively, vibrant and full of interesting things to photograph, but it is really difficult to find a scene where electricity poles or telephone wires are not in the scene – even shooting landscape photos can prove an issue.  Love the shot, but hate the black wires running everywhere.

Indoor scenes illuminated by a single source of artificial light of high luminance

Finally in this presentation of alternate images are those I took in my portable studio.

Shutter Speed 1/0; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 230mm; ISO100; WB Tungsten; Spot Metering

Shutter Speed 1/0; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 230mm; ISO100; WB Tungsten; Spot Metering

It took a while to get the set up right for this shoot, and here are the final sample images I produced at the end of each stage of the set up.

This first image was my benchmark against the lighting requirement and position of the glass.  I like the way I have capture the waters reflection on the floor of the studio and how it brings out the highlights the lines in the glass.  These features were transferred to the final image, which pleased me as it gives the shot that extra piece of find detail.

I originally tried my White Balance set on tungsten, but found that the colours were not quiet right, especially once I started to play with different coloured backgrounds.

By changing the White Balance to Cool White Fluorescent, I have been able to get the colour balance right and in conjunction with the black background, I seem to have hit the sweet spot.

Shutter Speed 1/0; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 116mm; ISO100; WB Cool White Fluorescent; Spot Metering

Shutter Speed 1/0; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 116mm; ISO100; WB Cool White Fluorescent; Spot Metering

I really like the simplicity of this second image and would have submitted it against the assignment if I had not wanted to include three different subjects against this title.

When lighting my porcelain figurine I tried many different positions and played with my shutter speed to achieve different levels of exposure.

Shutter Speed 1/0; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 150mm; ISO100; WB Tungsten; Spot Metering

Shutter Speed 1/0; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 150mm; ISO100; WB Tungsten; Spot Metering

In this image I have included a candle as a second light source to the left of the model, which has worked nicely to subtly highlight that side of the figure, just enough to see the fine detail on this side of the shot.

Unfortunately, I could not get this image in focus and I am not sure whether that was an issue with my composition or the inclusion of the additional light source, this is why I did not include this image in my assignment selection.

The last image in this section is of the candle.  In this shot, I have used a slower shutter speed than in the image selected for the assignment, so this has allowed more light to enter the sensor, which has subsequently highlighted most of the candle and its holder within the frame.

Shutter Speed 1/5; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 300mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Shutter Speed 1/5; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 300mm; ISO100; WB Sunny; Spot Metering

Although this is a good enough image, it does not appeal to me as much as the original, which is why it was not selected for the assignment.

Appendix III – Assessment Criteria

Here are the Assessment Criteria for this course.  These are central to the assessment process for this course, so if you are going to have your work assessed to gain formal credits, please make sure you take note of these criteria and consider how each of the assignments you complete demonstrates evidence of each criterion.  On completion of each assignment, and before you send your assignment to your tutor, test yourself against the criteria – in other words – do a self assessment, and see how you think you would do.  Note down your findings of each assignment you’ve completed in your learning log, noting all your perceived strengths and weaknesses, taking into account the criteria every step of the way.  This will be helpful for your tutor to see, as well as helping you prepare for assessment.

Assessment criteria points

  • Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills
  • Quality of Outcome content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas
  • Demonstration of Creativity imagination, experimentation, invention, development of personal voice
  • Context reflection, research, critical thinking (learning log)

Appendix IV – Source:

Reference:

Cambridge in Colour.  (n.d.) Camera Histograms: Tones & Contrast [Online Article].  Available at: <http://cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/histograms1.htm&gt; [Originally accessed 5 February 2013].

Bibliography:

Rockwell, K.  (2008) Dynamic Range [Online Article].  Available at: http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/dynamic-range.htm [Accessed 21 June 2013].

SusanG.  (n.d.) Getting Better Contrast in Your Photography [Online Article/Forum].  Available at: <http://digital-photography-school.com/getting-better-contrast-in-your-photography&gt; [Accessed 21 June 2013].

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2 Responses to Assignment Two: Digital Image Qualities

  1. profstoff says:

    Julie, Well done on completing the assignment. I like “The Back of Beyond” and I’m glad you managed to get someone in the frame; and they are well placed. i always think including people in pictures like this lifts them out of the mundane snapshot and makes them somehow more real. The fact that the person is silhouetted makes them just a random person, a representative of humanity rather than an individual.

    Chris

    • Thanks Chris, i really liked that shot too – i actually had a few to choose from, there was one with an old guy pulling along a cart, but he was not in silhouette so it didn’t work quiet so well. definitely an idea i am planning to build on …

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