Exercise; Variety with a low sun

In this exercise the photos were taken when the sun was lower in the sky.

Frontal lighting


In this case the sun was behind me as I took the photograph of Wymondham Abbey so that the tower is in direct sunlight. The trees behind me are just casting their shadows at the base of the tower, a little later and the shadows will have been cast onto the building itself.


Side lighting


This is a view of the same building but from the side, you can see how the left hand tower is casting its shadow on to the roof of the Abbey. Also the brickwork on the edge of the tower is more pronounce because of the shadows.


Back lighting


The same building again but this time with the sun behind it, giving a very different feel to the first photo in the series.


What have I learned from this exercise? Before trying out this exercise I would probably have automatically gone to the ‘sunny side’ of a subject. This exercise has taught me to look at potential images from all sides and the different lighting effects that may produce.

Exercise; Light through the day

This exercise required a sunny day to complete. 2012 was not the best year to find a sunny day, particularly at the time I was trying to complete this exercise. Whenever we did have a completely sunny day, invariably I was unable to spend the whole day taking photos. The photos that follow are the ones that I did manage to take on a day that was sunny for some of the time!

IMG_1471_ IMG_1467_ IMG_1463_ IMG_1459_ IMG_1451_ IMG_1446_

Exercise; Judging Colour Temperature 2

This is a continuation of the previous exercise, but adjusting the white balance setting for each photo.

The three sets of photographs were taken in midday sunlight, midday shade and evening sunlight.

Each set of photographs below is shown in the following order of settings for white balance

  • Sunlight
  • Shade
  • Auto

The first photos were taken in direct sunlight:


Here i prefer the first photograph where the white balance setting is on sunlight. The skin tones look the most natural of the three, with the setting at shade the tones are too orange for my liking. The image from the auto setting is close to that of the first one but the skin is a little paler.


The following photos were shot in shade:


For these photos I prefer the setting on auto – just. The first image taken on sunlight setting is too cool and a little blue. The skin tones in the other two images are closer to the natural tones. The shade setting does seem to have a bit of a yellow tinge to it, as does the auto setting but not as heavy as the shade setting, hence my prefeerence for the third image.


The final three photos were taken in evening sunlight


Again here I prefer the auto setting. The flesh tones are too yellow/orange in the first two settings but, to my mind, the most natural in the final image.


What have I learned from this exercise? I do feel that, having completed this exercise, I am now starting to understand the concept of white balance a bit better. I will continue to experiment to deepen my understanding.

Exercise; Judging colour temperature 1


For this exercise I took three photographs. One was in direct sunlight in the middle of the day, the second was in shade in the middle of the day whilst the third was taken in late evening sunlight. The camera’s White Balance was set to daylight for all three shots.



The differences in colour and skin tone are much more marked than I remember from when I took the photos. The first one taken in the midday sun has lost much of its skin tone whereas the photograph taken in late evening has a very orange cast.


What have I learned from this exercise? I had always found the question of white balance a bit baffling and had tended to leave the camera set to Auto. Undertaking this exercise has started to help me understand a the topic a little better.

Exercise;Higher and lower sensitivity

For this exercise I took photos of scenes at both normal and high sensitivity settings on the camera and compared the results.











In each of the photos quite a difference can be seen when the images are blown up, this is particularly the case in the darker areas of the picture  i.e.

  • the dark foliage behind the red berries
  • the shadow beneath the insect
  • the dark leaves behind the tulip
  • the sky behind the castle
  • the dark branches in the foreground.

The darker shadowy areas are much noisier, grainier in the high ISO settings and less distinct. This can be seen in some of the lighter areas, but not all, and to a much lesser degree.


What have I learned from this exercise? I have occasionally used the higher ISO settings on my camera before but this exercise required me to find borderline subjects and then use both high and low sensitivity settings. I feel I know have a better understanding of when to change settings and what the consequences for image quality may be in different circumstances. For example it may be aesthetically pleasing to have a very grainy image.

Exercise; Measuring exposure

The first exercise requires 4 to 6 images that are deliberately lighter or darker than average.

m_laburnum vertical shift 

In this image I deliberately overexposed the image to get the effect that I wanted.

I was taking a photograph of a laburnum tree, using a long exposure I moved the camera in an upward direction as I took the photo. This gave the ‘painterly’ effect that I was looking for and I felt that overexposing the image would enhance this effect.






m_leaf B&WThis was an image where I deliberately underexposed the photo as I took it. The original colour image has been converted into black and white in Photoshop (which I had originally intended to do).

I underexposed the shot slightly as the sunlight was shining through the leaf but not the veins of the leaf. I thought it best to underexpose so that the veins would seem darker but the main leaf part not as bright as it would have been with the metered exposure.



This is another example of underexposure, I wanted the rich blue colour of the iris to be shown to its best effect and found that this was achieved with a very slight underexposure,


Finally another overexposure. Again this was to achieve a particular effect that I wanted. Here I turned the camera whilst pressing the shutter to give the rotary effect that can be seen. Again I thought that a slight overexposure would give the best final results for this image.






The second part of the exercise requires taking five or six different photos of the same subject one at the measured exposure, then further exposures a half and a full stop lighter and darker than the measured exposures \9so five exposures for each photo),

My camera has exposure compensation in one third stops so the following photos will all be –0.7, –0.3, measured exposure, +0.3 and + 0.7.


In this case I think the that the –0.3 gives the best result.


In this instance I think the measured exposure is the best.


Perhaps it is the effect of the expanse of sky, but in this instance I prefer the –0.7 expopsure


Here I think that the measured exposure is best.


Finally, I think that the colours come out best in the -0.7 exposure.


There is no obvious pattern to this, some photos look best at the measured exposure, but not all.


What have I learned from this exercise? I have learned to think more about exposure when taking photos and not just leave the camera set to ‘Auto’ or ‘Programme’ modes. I think I will be doing more bracketing in future.

Study Visit–Press Association Images Nottingham

Had a terrific visit today to Press Association Images in Nottingham. They have 12 million images on line and a further 8 million in their  archive. We started off with a brief talk and good Q&A session with the MD which covered the work of the Press Association with some images dating from 1863. We were taken on a tour of the archives and the first picture we were shown was a glass plate of The Titanic from 1910. We were taken round the various archives and the walls were festooned with amazing images from news (eg HMS Antelope exploding in the Falklands war), sport (a very bloodied, but unbowed, Henry Cooper), entertainment (picture of Frank Sinatra), royalty (photo of Prince Charles and Prince Harry),etc.

I was amazed to hear how sports photographers now instantly send their images from the camera to their laptop, via Wifi to the picture desk where it will be remotely edited and then sent out to the client, all within 90 seconds!!

We ended with a talk that I usually given to newspaper subeditors. Using examples that has been printed we were shown issues involved with

  • Flipping of images
  • Adding or removing aspects of the original
  • Combining pictures
  • Changing agency pictures
  • Re-purposing

Finally there was a fascinating ethical discussion on how a photograph of the Madrid train bombing was treated, the image showed the wreckage of the train and the people being treated onthe tracks, but it also showed, quite prominently in the foreground, a severed limb. The photograph was shown front page in Newspapers around the world and it was interesting to see how different papers dealt with it;

  • An American paper published it as shot
  • A Belgian paper cloned out the severed limb
  • The Guardian in the UK published the whole photo but desaturated the severed limb
  • Time magazine published the whole photo, but printed their headline at the bottom of the image so that the severed limb was  blocked out.

A fascinating trip enhanced by the enthusiasm of the person giving the tour and the opportunity  to meet other students. Very different to a trip to a museum or gallery it gave a tremendous insight into the work of press photographers.


It has been a long time since I last posted on my blog. This is because, due to the weather, I have been doing the exercises for this section out of order (if I’d waited for a sunny day before being able to move on to the next exercise then it could have taken years to complete!). I have been keeping the posts in draft form so that I can publish them in the same sequence as laid out in the course handbook. There is about to be a blitz of postings!

Learning to Light

Some time ago I bought this book (Learning to Light, Roger Hicks & Frances Schultz, Collins & Brown, London, 1998) and I’ve been re-reading it in preparation for this course.

There a number of good examples of basic (and a bit more advanced) lighting set ups.It is split into two sections

  • Techniques and Equipment
  • Projects

The individual projects are good to refer to if you are planning a similar lighting set up.

My main learning point is their three basic rules

  1. There should only be one set of shadows and they should all point in the same direction
  2. Wherever possible, the background should be far enough from the subject that it can be lit separately
  3. Whenever a shadow is unavoidable, it should be treated as part of the composition

Light; Science and Magic


Light; Science and Magic, Hunter F, Biver S and Fuqua P, Elsevier, Oxford, 2007.

A few learning points after reading this set text.

The Principles

  1. The effective size of the light source is the single most important decision in lighting a photograph. It determines what types of shadows are produced and may affect the type of reflection
  2. Three types of reflections (see below) are possible from any surface. they determine why any surface looks the way it does
  3. Some of these reflections occur only if light strikes the surface from within a limited family of angles. After we decide what type of reflection is important, the family of angles determines where the light should or should not be;
    • Direct reflection – lighting from within the family of angles
    • Diffuse reflection – lighting from outside the family of angles

Primarily we are concerned with three things for photography;

Brightness          Colour          Contrast

The subject can affect the lighting in three different ways

Transmission (direct & diffuse)          Absorption          Reflection

Types of reflection;

      Diffuse reflection          Direct reflection          Glare

The source determines the type of light and the surface determines the type of reflection.

Light from a very shallow angle to one side (skimming) highlights texture – gives each part a highlight side and a shadow side. Emphasised even more by using a small light source (won’t show texture on black subjects however as you can’t see the shadows! – in this case a large light source within, and filling, the family of angles causes direct reflection and reveals the texture).

Use gobos to remove unwanted direct reflection from particular parts of a scene.

Revealing Shape and Contour

Depth clues – Perspective distortion,

                      Tonal variation

Perspective distortion    the closer we move the camera to the subject the greater the distortion will be – the further the camera is from the subject, the less the distortion.

Tonal variation  highlights and shadows are determined by the size and position of the light used. Hard shadow often increases the illusion of depth more than a soft one.

Front lighting shows the least possible depth because the visible part of the subject is entirely highlighted     -     often called flat lighting.

Adding depth to the background using ‘falloff’.

Photographing Buildings – Tend to photograph early morning or evening with light shining on the face of building to reduce shadows – decreases tonal variation but use wider angle lens to get closer and increase perspective distortion.

Photographing glass -          Bright field

                                             Dark field          lighting


Good lighting is the key to good portraiture.

The key triangle – base of the key triangle should run through the eye and its point should should extend down the cheek approximately to the lip line.

Generally light to the same side as the hair parting.

Broad Lighting – Puts the main light on the same side as the visible ear

Short Lighting – Puts the main light on the side opposite the visible ear

Fill light – usually give the subject about half the illumination as the main light.

Background lights provide a degree of tonal separation between the subject and the background

Hair lights Important to position it so that it does not cause flare

Kickers Adds extra illumination to or ‘kicks up’ the brightness on part of the face. Usually about half the brightness of the main light.

Rim lights Used to illuminate the edges of a subject. Places the light behind the subject but pointing towards it.

Low key lighting large, prominent areas of dark are characteristic of low-key lighting. Pictures made with this kind of lighting tend to be sombre, serious, formal and dignified in mood.

Requires more side and back lighting. Front lighting does not produce enough shadow areas to keep the key low.

High key lighting light and bright – conveys a youthful, open and happy mood. High-key portrait lighting always uses a great deal of front light.