Category Archives: Part 4 – Light

Exercise: Cloudy weather & rain

Part 1

Make 4-6 images where the subject is first in sunlight then in the shade of a passing cloud, keep the white balance set to sunlight/daylight; make a note of the difference in exposure between the pairs.

I am finding myself significantly behind schedule at the moment, and in light of this I have decided to move on with the next exercises before plunging into my assignment. I have done part 3 of this exercise as I felt I needed to explore this area more so than parts 1 & 2.

I would predict, however that for part 1 the images in sunlight would cast stronger/harsher shadows than that of the image taken in shade. By not adjusting the white balance and keeping it set to sunlight/daylight, there’s a chance that the shade images may appear slightly blue.

Part 2

For the second part of the exercise take 3 images outdoors on an overcast day.  Look for some detail that has pronounced relief  and an object with strong colour.

I would predict that as the day is to be overcast shadows will be less distinct and the subject shall be more evenly lit. The image where the subject has pronounced relief will show clearer detail.

Part 3

Make a minimum of two images in the rain.

Unfortunately for this part of the exercise the weather has not been on my side. It’s either not rained, or its been borderline torrential! However, not put off by this I ventured out with my Nikon and a variety of lenses (I’ve just extended my collection)


I love taking photos of light reflections in wet pavements and puddles. This carnival picture is a perfect example of the abstract impressions you can get through reflection photography. I am hoping to experiment more with street lighting/ traffic lights reflected through rain.



This macro shot shows the ‘shiny’ appearance raindrops can create when they catch the light. The main thing to observe here is that one raindrop has caught the light completely, while the surrounding drops catch glimmers of light.


I actually quite like this photo. By focusing solely on the raindrops on the glass the background becomes somewhat blurred making the drops the point of interest. The colours in the background emphasise the dreary weather as they are a combination of greys, browns , yet the bright green raincoat acts as a focal point beyond the raindrops.


Using a low f-number resulted in part of this railing being in focus, implying that the areas surrounding the focal point follow the same pattern structure. I wanted to capture the drops in stages – the ones running down the railing and later congregating into the raindrops hanging from the bottom of the railing.


Finally, a raindrop suspended from the railing. I love how the raindrop has captured the light and reflected it, if there had been a prominent colour behind the droplet this would have been reflected this too. I like how the reflection captivates the viewers attention. This is also something i will experiment with.

The handbook said that capturing a rainbow is a special bonus for this exercise, and I managed to photograph one while away a few weeks ago, gorgeous. If you look closely you can see its actually a double rainbow. I like how the colours are in stark contrast to the moody sky and dark sea.








Exercise: Contrast and Shadow Fill (TAoP)

Set up a simple still-life scene and shooting from the same level as the object(s), fix the light about 2 -3 feet to one side of the object and at its level so that it’s aimed at right-angles to the camera’s view.  Make the first image without a diffuser and then one with.  Follow this with a series of five exposures; take the white card and place it 3 feet from the object(s) on the opposite side from the light.  Make one image and then move the card twice as close to the object(s) and make another image.  Next cut a piece of baking foil to fit the white card; fix it dull side out and make an image, turn the foil around so that the shiny side is facing out and make an image, finally crumple the foil, smooth it out by hand, replace it around the card and make a final image.

This exercise did not produce the kind of results I was anticipating. I do, however think it is important to critique these results and look at why they did not turn out quite as i expected. I will re do this exercise at a later date, but I had a fairly clear idea of what should happen using the different lighting methods.


The first picture here uses a bare light positioned 2-3 feet away from the subject. This casts a strong harsh shadow and the back drop is relatively dark.


The second shot has a diffused light – resulting in softer shadows and the back drop has also been lightened.


The third shot has incorporated a white card positioned opposite the light, around 3 feet away from the subject. The only difference I can pick out is an extremely subtle change with the far right blue strip. The white card seems to have softened the slight glare in the above picture.


By moving the white card twice as close to the object, again doesn’t create a significant difference, apart from the light has bounced back onto the 2 circular elements at the top left corner of the object. There seems to be some refraction and glare coming off the lower circle especially.


The card now has foil covering it, with the dull side of the foil facing out. This seems to have softened the shadow cast by the object ever so slightly, and has reduced the glare coming off the 2 circular elements. Again this is only a very slight change.


Now this shot is interesting. The foil has now been turned round so that the shiny side is facing out, and the amount of shadows being cast had been reduced quite considerably. The light has been directly bounced back, meaning that the shadow is not as present. The back drop has also darkened slightly.


The final shot in this set uses crumpled foil smoothed out. The shadows are more prominent and the front of the camera is brighter.

As I had predicted, the image that has no diffuser or reflector  has the most contrast.

Perhaps if the light had been closer to the subject I may have got more obvious results. I also think perhaps i should have used a larger light resulting in stronger visual results.

Exercise: The Lighting Angle (TAoP)

Using the photographic lamp and the camera set horizontally, make images with the lamp set at different points around the subject, including directly overhead and from a downward pointing, 45 degree angle.  Which one reveals the three-dimensional effect best and choose which one you like best and discuss why. 

For this exercise I used a photographic lamp, which was diffused through the sides and back of my photographic cube. Recently i’ve been extremely aware of, and studied the use of lighting on an everyday basis – adverts on tv, promotional posters on the underground etc and I feel i have learnt enough to almost predict what angle of light suits what subject.

Here are my results: (All photos taken with the same aperture and ISO)

bottom right


Here the light is angled from the bottom right corner, highlighting the reeds and bottle in a soft subtle light. The shadow is fairly prominent – hinting at the angle of the light.


Here the light is angled from the bottom left (i did not ant to use the exact same symmetrical angle as on the right, so this one is slightly further forward) Again this is evident by the angle of shadow. The reeds are fairly under exposed and dark. The backdrop is also fairly dark.

left side

Here the light is coming directly from the left, and now has more light on the reeds and the side of the bottle. The image produces a much warmer feel and it is much more pleasing to the eye. The shadow is relatively soft also.


With the light source at the very top left corner we see a strong shadow (indicating the direction of light) but are left with a very dark object. The reeds are too dark, and so is the bottle.


With a direct backlight we see a very dramatic effect of a silhouette. Not ideal for photographing an object of this kind perhaps, but extremely effective for demonstrating shape and form.


With the light positioned in the top right corner we see a slight glow of the bottle and the reeds are slightly lighter, but other than that and the faint shadow it is still too dark.

right side

With the light directly from the right we get a softer feel, the reeds are lit well and softly, and theres a gentle shadow. The bottle is also lit well.


With the light positioning overhead we see a whole new kind of shadow being cast and the whole bottle is lit. The inner reeds catch the most light, resulting in an interesting contrast between the light and dark reeds. I had anticipated that this would not have necessarily made a very eye catching picture, but looking back at it i think it is extremely striking.

Personally, my favourite images are the overhead light (very dramatic) and the image lit from the left, as this image has both light and shadow at the same time. Although, after looking over them again the image lit from the bottom right is very soft, and would probably be viewed as the best image.

This exercise has been extremely beneficial in teaching to predict how light will effect a scene, and also in knowing which part of an object you want lit, and which you want in shadow. I have tried to avoid direct lighting as i have never really been a huge fan of this as i feel it is less creative. Using different lighting angles can give you so much control over the outcome of an image. You can add a soft, aesthetic appearance, or a striking dramatic effect.


Exercise: Softening the Light (TAoP)

Set up a still life arrangement, with any object or group of objects.  Fix a naked light more-ore-less overhead, pointing down.  Make two images, one using the naked light and one with light passing through a diffuser.  Look at the results and write down exactly what you see as the differences.  Determine if the diffuser made an improvement to the image as opposed to the naked light image.

Having recently bought a flash gun and a soft box diffuser i was well aware of what this exercise was trying to demonstrate.

A strong naked light often casts heavy shadows and objects can reflect the light. Objects can also appear too bright, and bleached out. By diffusing the light you should end up with softer shadows and less glare.

For this exercise I did not use by flash gun, and used a normal house lamp.

Still life shot using naked light (tungsten)


Firstly, please excuse the stain on my canvas! As you can see the shadow of the chopping board is very evident and heavy. There is also some light reflection bouncing off the tomatoes.

Shot diffused using white canvas:


As expected – when the light is diffused the shadow becomes much softer and gradual. The glare of light coming off the tomato is much more subtle and reduced.

In conclusion, I find that a diffused light produces a much more pleasing photo as shadows are softer and reflections are less obvious.


Exercise: Tungsten and fluorescent lighting (TAoP)

This exercise requires you to use your judgement of light colours as well as make the images required. 

Part 1

When the light levels indoors and out are approximately equal compose an image where the interior lit by tungsten lamps and the exterior at dusk are both visible.  Make three images with the white balance set first to Auto, then to Tungsten and finally daylight.  Compare the results , what differences are there?



White balance set to auto



White balance set to tungsten




White balance set to daylight

The main thing I noticed is that when the white balance is changed to tungsten it adds a fairly obvious blue tint to it, and when daylight is selected it become warmer, with a red tint.

Part 2

Find two different rooms lit by fluorescent lighting, if possible make one of the interiors lit with CFL lamps.  Make two images in each room depicting the same scene, set the white balance first to Fluorescent and then Auto.  Compare the results, what are the differences?

I managed to find some fluorescent lights that use small CFL lamps (compact fluorescent lights) these do not appear so ‘white’ to the eye, and have a more domestic like feel.



This shot was taken with the WB set to auto. As you can see the lights appear white as do the walls.



The second shot was taken with the WB set to fluorescent – my nikon has several different settings, so i chose ‘cool white’ fluorescent as the light appears white to the eye. As you can see there isn’t a great difference, only the image now appears less blue/green.  The walls appear whiter.




If applicable we are to choose a third setting, from the range of fluorescent settings. I chose the mercury vapour setting. Mercury vapour lights are intense and slightly blueish white.  As you can see the camera has used a red filter to try to counter balance the blue that would be produced by mercury vapour lamps – as a result of this, we can assume that the hall lights are NOT mercury vapour lighting as the image is far too red!



For this shot the WB has been set to auto. The light appears very white.





When the WB is change to ‘cool white’ fluorescent the image appears very blue, white the light is bright white.





When set to mercury vapour setting it creates a warmer image than both of the above. There is a slight reddish hue, creating the warmth, but not too much as in the first example. This could mean that the lights used in this room are in fact mercury vapour, or multi vapour lighting. (Multi vapour lights photograph white.)

All in all i found this exercise very interesting. I’ve been setting my camera to auto WB mainly because i didn’t really know where or why to change settings. It is only after doing this exercise that i have realised the importance of assessing my surroundings and changing settings accordingly.

Exercise: Light through the day (TAoP)

Find a landscape scene with a fairly definite subject that will catch the sunlight even when the sun is close to the horizon.  It needs to offer a good, clear view that is lit throughout the day, perhaps containing an isolated building.  Photograph the scene from dawn to dusk, taking at least one per hour, and more at the end of the day when the light is changing faster.  From the processed results, choose one photograph that you consider the best and is this the same one you would have chosen at the time?  If not why not?   

I was not totally confident in this exercise as I picked to do this on a day that had a mixed forecast…sods law really!

However, after looking at the results i was intrigued by the on/off presence of cloud. It is known that cloud diffuses light, and while the course notes ask for a sunny day, i felt that my shots demonstrate both. There are several strong sun pictures.

I paid particular attention to the shadows cast during the day as this helps to a) identify the position of the sun (the sun was not obviously visible in the sky from my location) and b) to demonstrate the different strength of sun, i.e whether it was peaking through cloud or not.



At 8.30 the sun is evident, as there are shadows to the bottom right corner – they are shadows of objects (trees) that are not actually in shot, hinting to the suns position. There was a degree of haze and the sky appears white. As sunrise is at least an hour earlier the sun has not yet reached its optimum height. The white building opposite is well lit, while the balconies to the left are in shadow. This would mean that the sun is roughly behind the camera, lighting the white building, and the building to the left is in the shade of the building I took the shots from.




At 9.30 the cloud has crept in, resulting in the whole shot being in shade. There is no shadow anywhere. The haze appears to have lessened and the sky has a slight blue hue to it.



At 10.30 there seems to be both sunlight and shade. the white building is lit but the foreground is shaded. This is perhaps due to the sun’s movement, as it is passing behind the building i’m shooting from, resulting in sunlight creeping over the top and hitting the buildings in the distance.




At 11.30 the sunlight is evident in almost all of this shot, and the balcony to the left is beginning to be in direct sunlight. There is a degree of shadow on the pavement, cast from the tree just off centre. Taking into account the shadow of the tree, the shadows on the paving and the fact that the balcony is now coming out of the shade, we can estimate that the sun is now behind the camera and to the left. It is slightly misleading as there are several buildings surrounding this shot which result in some shadows not being instantly recognisable as they are out of shot.


At 12.30pm the sun should now be at it’s highest, but there is cloud present – It’s not perhaps as strong as in earlier shots as there is a slight shadow being cast from the tree.



At 1.30pm There is heavy cloud (I almost packed up as it looked like it was about to rain) the whole shot is in darkness. Obviously this can be corrected by altering the exposure in post processing.




At 2.30 we have light! The white building is in direct light, and the suns position has changed – it is now moving behind the building on my left – resulting in the balcony that was earlier creeping out of the shade plummeting back in. There’s much more shadow on the paving indicating the direction of sunlight.



At 3.30 there’s cloud again – not as much as earlier, but it is instantly obvious by looking at the white building which now appears rather dark/dull.




Again at 4.30 there is a blanket of cloud, slightly less than before as the white building appears lighter, and so does the pavement. There is a hint of shadow coming from the small white wall around the tree.



At 5.30 there is quite a bit of cloud, and there are no shadows apart from a hint of one coming from the wall by the tree. The white building again looks dull. The balconies to the left are now brighter than they have been, indicating that the sun is positioned to their left.



At 6.30 the image takes on a warmer feel and a slightly orange hue has appeared at the top right of the image, indicating that the sun is just out of shot. This also indicates that the sun is starting to set, as evening sunlight is much warmer. The white building is now fairly bright and well lit.



At 7.11pm the sky appears yellow and the image is dark. No shadows are present and the building is now starting to look extremely dark. The sun’s position is still just out of shot, just behind the balcony at the top left.


At 7.25pm the sky still appears yellow, and the foreground is all in shade and starting to get darker. It is now quite difficult to distinguish objects in the walled area.



At 7.33pm the sun is behind the dark brown building that appears in-between the two balconies on the left. Again the image is getting increasingly more dark, and this could be altered in post processing software.




Not a vast difference at 7.40, buildings are now using electrical lighting (the Audi garage in the far distance) and the street lighting has come on. At this stage the sky still appears fairly bright and blue.



The final shot at 7.50pm gives off the feeling that the sun is low in the sky, and near to setting. The majority of the foreground is now hard to distinguish and far too dark. There is a small bit of lighting but again this is artificial.

Overall I’m fairly pleased with these results as they do demonstrate the objective. I found it interesting trying to track the sun and predict it’s positioning. This is definitely something that i will be considering with all my photography from now on. Sometimes i think i am too hasty in taking a shot, and don’t really assess my available light. I would love to expand this further and start shooting at sunrise.

As for which photograph is my favourite, i would have to choose the shot at 2.30pm as this demonstrates gorgeous blue sky, bright sunlight and shadows. However, there are areas that are too dark and i would alter these in photoshop. A close second is the picture taken at 6.30pm as i really like the orange hue that has appeared, and the sky looks interesting.

Exercise: Judging colour temperature 1 (TAoP)

Make three images of something that does not have a particularly strong colour, a face maybe, one in full sunlight at the middle of the day, one in shade at the middle of the day and finally one in sunlight when the sun is close to the horizon.  Ensure that the camera white balance is set to daylight for all three images.

Having paid much attention to the the type/strength of light available during different parts of the day on my daily commute I am sure that objects photographed in the evening sun will be more pleasing to the eye, and appear warmer. As the sun sets the ‘whiteness’ decreases.

Object in direct sunlight:

Direct sun


As predicted, the white levels are all high, and the shadow of the teddy is prominent.

Shade during midday sun:


This image has a much warmer feel – the orange/red fur appears darker and warmer, and the cream is less washed out.

Direct low sun:

Low sun

The lower sun results in an even warmer feel than the shade image. There is a faint red hue to the image and both the red and cream fur appears more saturated. Even the wall in the background and the table appear warmer due to the low sun.

I am interested in doing this exercise with an object with a strong colour, perhaps a red object to see what different results I get.

As expected, as the sun is at its highest in the sky during midday – images are more washed out and have greater whiteness. The lower the sun gets in the sky, the warmer an image appears, and a reddish glow often becomes apparent.