A friend and I went to the Suffolk Coast for a few days, and the light was, as always, fantastic. Our little lodge faced due East, out over the sea, and I broke the habit of a lifetime and managed to get up for sunrise one morning! The low cloud meant we didn’t see the sun for an hour or so but the sky was spectacular.
I processed in LR, adjusting the level sliders to reveal the colour in the foreground add some contrast to the sky. The second image evokes the real view much more than the first, and I was pleased to find the amount of information hidden in the shadows.
This was an interesting exercise to do at the coast with a big empty sky and a dark foreground, as the differences show up really well – the overexposed image has lost all detail in the sky, which I can’t get back in Lightroom. The underexposed image is much more usable, as all the detail is there but it is very noisy, with visible grain even when the exposure is increased in Lightroom.
The image shows a red metal bridge against a green background of trees and foliage. The bridge is in the centre of the image and takes up the full height. The bridge is made from triangles of red and orange metal, creating a long prism shape, At the bottom is a roadway, with yellow railings. The railings form a regular grid of small rectangles. The road emerges from the bottom left corner of the image. It runs diagonally across the bottom quarter. The colours of the bridge and roadway are clear and vibrant. The green of the forest background is hazy and faded. The bridge sees to emerge out of the forest in 3D, coming toward the viewer. Attention The red structure took my attention first, as the colour and shape is strong. The 3D effect of the bridge coming out of the image is startling and draws the eye across the bridge to the background. The viewer travels along the road. Light and Shadow
The light is coming from the top left corner. The bridge and roadway are strongly lit, with the underside in shadow. The triangle shape of the red girders has made a shadow on the background. The strong sunlight has made the background hazy and fuzzy. Composition The photo has strong diagonal lines. The main line of the road draws the eye across the image and up and downthe triangle shapes of the structure
Subject and Themes
I think the subject of the photo is the bridge.
The absence of any people or traffic gives the image a slightly sinister feeling. It makes the picture about the structure and shape rather than the bridge as a useful object that does a job. The roadway seems to go nowhere, suddenly disappearing into the forest, which is quite surreal. Personal Response I find the image slightly surreal. I like the strong diagonal lines and the way they direct the eye around the photo. I find the way the bridge seems to disappear into the wall of forest unsettling, and initially I struggled a bit to ard to extract meaning, to do the ‘right’ thing for the exercise. Hopefully, I will get better at this bit!
“Evaluating your own photographs is a key skill to develop during this course. It’s your conscious awareness of visual problems that will help you to avoid them and to make better photos as a result. Here’s a list of questions to help you assess your photographs.”
What is the subject?
Is the subject clearly visible or is it obscured?
What’s behind the subject? Is it distracting?
Does the composition have any other major distractions?
Is the subject in or out of focus?
Is the image well exposed?
What is the contrast like?
Is the colour balance the way you remember it?
I use Lightroom for both workflow organisation (and it’s taken a few years to be able to feel OK about calling it a workflow!) and image editing. I have started trying to keep the following regime.
Upload photos from a shoot/trip/event to a dated folder inside a themed folder – eg Walks, Holidays etc
Review the images initially one by one and flag ones I instantly like
Look at the flagged photos in more detail, and colour code ones that I want to work on further
Number code edits that I want to export and publish on Flickr etc and export to a folder inside the original dated folder called edits
I think the best way to illustrate the evaluation process for the Light and Shadow photos is to look at some of the light and shadow photos that didn’t work and explore some of my reasons for rejecting them. I was going for a clean, graphic, abstract feel to these images, with line, shape, pattern and contrast as the main ‘subject’. This meant that the successful images would need to have clean lines, good contrast, and interesting shapes to avoid being boring.
Make a series of photographic studies of light and shadow. Use your spot meter to expose the highlights correctly, but make the shadows dark. Use the edges and corners of your frame to create dramatic compositions. You’ll need to shoot many exposures for this project, perhaps more than you’re accustomed to taking. Be observant and go out specifically with taking pictures in mind.
I have one of those fancy Dyson lollipop fans in my bedroom, and it stands next to a west-facing window which has ventian blinds. When the sun low in the sky in the late afternoon there are often fantastic shadows that play over the windowsill, bookcase and fan so I waited for a clear sunny day and set the camera up.
I was aiming to look for pattern and shape and contrast, and I think it was a successful shoot in that regard. It was interesting to vary the openings in the blinds and change the light coming through, and use that to play around with the lines of light and shadow. It also allowed me to stop and look carefully at the camera settings as I was controlling the light.
I do have problems with remembering which button combination to use if I want to switch between exposure lock and focus lock etc so it was useful to be able to change the lighting conditions and practice.
The photo of the flying foxes, looking like strange little goblin angels is incredible. I think he must have overexposed it to get such contrast between the animal’s body and wings and make the wings so transparent. The contrast between light and dark makes the image haunting, scary and confusing. It is utterly compelling.
The other photo that stayed with me is of a little boy watching TV inside a caravan. Somehow there are shadows of leaves and foliage projected all over the inside of the caravan, and the TV screen is a glowing centre of light in the image. As with many of his photos, it is confusing, a little frightening and conveys a sense of isolation and danger, whilst also being hauntingly beautiful.
Themes that emerge after looking at lots of his photos:
Use of under and overexposure to create drama, and draw the eye to very bright/dark areas of the photo
Use of shadow/highlight to simplify an image and remove distractions
Strong shapes, outlines and silhouettes created by both shadows and light
Movement captured – a moment of dramatic light frozen
Photos need a second or third look to see what is really happening
Some photos seem ‘impossible’ – how did he see that moment
People in silhouette or bleached out give a sense of isolation and loneliness
Strong narrative elements give the photos a dramatic, story-like quality
The photos evoke emotions – nostalgia, loneliness, fear, wonder
Often taken from unusual viewpoints, above, below etc
Strong compositional lines leading into areas of deep contrast/bright light etc