Assignment 4 – Subject Choice

I’ve now completed all but one of the exercises in the lighting section of the course. The one I’ve missed is the impractical ‘lighting through the day’ that required repeat visits to the same spot between sunrise and sunset. Given that there are 18 hours of daylight at this time of year and I work full-time, I’ve just not had the opportunity. My plan is to set up a camera and intervalometer in a bedroom window, I just need a sunny forecast on a day when I’m not shooting anything else.

Reading through other student’s blogs, I was expecting these exercises to be long-winded and time-consuming, but I’ve found them interesting and fun for the most part. With them behind me, it’s time to think about a subject for assignment 4 – Applying Lighting Techniques.

Again, reading through the blogs of students that have gone before me, the majority seem to have chosen a small, portable object, often it would appear, a holiday souvenir, that they have photographed at home using natural and photographic lighting. There is one notable exception in Tim Dunk’s exceptional interpretation of the brief.

Fig. 05 - Light in front and 45 degree above
Fig. 05 – Light in front and 45 degree above

As I mentioned in my post on the lighting angle, I had intended to shoot a small sculpture that we have at home. It has interesting texture, plenty of colour and an familiar shape. I was happy enough with some of the shots in that exercise, despite being my first using backdrops and stand mounted lighting. But, having read the brief repeatedly, I began to think about using a subject that wasn’t moveable and for which the lighting of would have to be natural. It meant that the exercise would be less about equipment and more about investigating which natural lighting conditions best enhanced the various facets we were looking for and adapting to whatever I was presented with.

Bradgate Tree
Bradgate Tree

I live a mile from a country park that began as a medieval deer park and is home to several ancient oaks that are many centuries old. One in particular has a prominent position overlooking the city at the junction of several paths and has always fascinated me. I used a picture of the tree (above) in my second assignment. The trunk has split and twisted over the years and is now only a fragile arc of pockmarked, weathered wood. When spring arrives each year, I’m surprised (and relieved) to see that it is still healthy enough to grow leaves. It seemed an ideal subject.

I’ve taken a few dozen pictures of it so far, across a number of visits and now I’m not so sure. Because the tree is more than a mile into the park (all up hill), a trip to photograph it, especially carrying tripod, lenses and lighting gear) becomes an expedition. I began setting the alarm for 4am to get up and check the sky, hoping for the magical light that dawn can provide. More often than not, I went back to bed. I visited a couple of times late in the day and while it is a beautiful place to be, it can frustrating to give a couple of hours of my day up waiting for light that doesn’t actually materialise. The practicalities of using reflectors and artificial light seem too great for my meagre equipment.

So, I’m thinking of lowering my sights once more.

Dark-field Lighting
Dark-field Lighting

Last night, rather than walking into the park again, I experimented for the first time with dark-field lighting as described in the excellent Light – Science and Magic book that forms part of the course’s reading material. After a few false starts, I began to produce pictures that might be useable in an assignment.

So do I take the easier route and lock myself away in the spare room for a couple of hours and produce the set I need, or do I persevere photographing the tree, getting fitter at the same time? Or should I do both and see which I like best?

The next post will probably let you know…


Hunter, F et al. (2012) Light – Science and magic. An introduction to photographic lighting. Oxford; Elsevier Inc.


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