Monthly Archives: October 2011

Exercise: Shiny Surfaces

For this exercise I need to find a subject that is shiny enough that I can see my face in it, this needs to be placed on the floor or a flat surface so I can take the images from above.

I used a piece of black velvet as the background and picked out some shiny cutlery that we don’t tend to use as this ensured that I had enough reflection when looking into it. I set up my camera on a tripod and used a shutter release so I didn’t disturb the set up. I made the cone out of a type of baking parchment as I couldn’t find tracing paper in any of the local shops I went into. I placed the cone around the top of the lens and secured this on with elastic bands as every time I focused, the lens moved and disturbed the paper. I ensured that the bottom of the cone fitted around the composition.


1)      Composition on velvet with no cone, the lighting is above the subject

Shiny surfaces 1 no cone, lighting above

2)      Composition with the cone around it, the lighting is above the subject

Shiny surfaces 2 cone and lighting above

3)      Composition with the cone around it, the light is directly from the right hand side

Shiny surfaces 3 cone and lighting from right side

4)      Composition with the cone around it and the light is from a small lamp to the left hand side

Shiny surfaces 4 cone and small lamp from left side


5)      A comparison shot, with no cone and the light from a small lamp to the left hand side

Shiny surfaces 6 no cone light from right side comparison


As I took a couple of comparison shots without the paper around the subject, I can really see the difference in the ones with and without. While I like the ones without the cone, where the lighting makes the object very reflective and shiny, using the paper provides a matte effect to the subject that allows the detail to be seen and transforms the object. With a mixture of black velvet as the background and the cone to diffuse the lighting hitting the subject, the cutlery is transformed from a shiny object to almost an art work and with the right item and composition; this technique could produce some great images.

Exercise: Concentrating Light

For this exercise, I had to create a cardboard snoot to place around my chosen light to direct it at specific areas. I rolled up some cardboard into a tube shape, and I was using a handheld LED light, I fitted this into the tube and then taped it in so that it was a complete handheld unit.

I then used the same stool, tripod and camera set up as I’d previously used for the contrast and shadow fill exercise. I created a small still life comprising of a TARDIS model and Dr Who figure, and then took a number of images directing the light in different areas

Image 1 is just of the subject with normal light

CL 1 Subject with normal room light

Image 2 – I directed light into the middle of the subject

CL 2 Directed light middle of subject

Image 3-  Directed Light to the right of the subject

CL 3 directed light right of subject

Image 4- Directed light on specific area

CL 4 Directed light on specific area

Image 5- Directed light from different side angle

CL 5 light from different side angle

Image 6- I directed the light from above downwards onto the subject

CL 6 Light shining down from directly above

Exercise: Contrast and shadow fill

For this exercise, I had to set up a simple still life shot; this was two statues placed onto a stool. I set a spotlight up to the left of the camera at right angles to where I was shooting. The camera was set up on a tripod and I set the ISO at 400 to reduce noise, and used a shutter release to ensure that there was no camera shake when taking the images. While the course notes mentioned white card and foil to be used, I didn’t use these as I had a Portaflash 5 in 1 reflector that I’d got on a previous course and hadn’t used, and I felt that this would be more realistic. However if I hadn’t gotten this, I would have used the card and foil methods.

The different reflectors I had and used were:-

Gold reflector- traditionally adds warmer tones

Silver reflector- gives a brighter light but this can be harsh (this is a shiny silver)

White reflector- gives a more even light

Black reflector- this reduces the amount of the light falling onto an area, could be used to add details in specific areas

White diffuser- gives a softer light with no hard shadows as the light falls directly through this as opposed to bouncing off

The images I took were

1)      Subject with the undiffused lamp and no reflector

Image 1 Undiffused

2)      Subject with the white diffuser between the light and the subject

Image 2 White diffuser

3)      Subject with the white diffuser placed opposite the light approximately 1metre away from the subject

Image 3 white reflector 1mtr distance

4)      Subject with the white reflector positioned opposite the light but closer so its only half a metre away from the subject

Image 4 white reflector half a metre distance

5)      Subject with the gold reflector placed opposite the light approx. half a metre from the subject

Image 5 Gold reflector

6)      Subject with the black reflector placed opposite the light approx. half a metre from the subject

Image 6 black reflector

7)      Subject with the silver (shiny) reflector placed opposite the light approx. half a metre from the subject

Image 7 Silver reflector shiny


8)      Subject with the silver reflector material crumpled placed opposite the light

Image 8 Silver reflector crumpled


Looking at the example images in the course book, the shadows add interest and impact, and I feel that if they had been lightened, the impact would have been lessened.

Exercise: The Lighting Angle

For the subject, we had a curved sculpture that I felt would be quite good for the shadows and light to fall onto. I set this up on a white portable studio to ensure that it had the required neutral background as well as providing a neutral base for the sculpture. I set the camera up on the tripod with the ISO and white balance fixed to allow me to take the images consistently and moved the light through the required positions taking an image every time.

The order is



Behind 2

Behind 1

Behind and to one side

Behind and to one side

Behind downwards

Behind downwards

Direct ahead with flashgun and no diffuser

Direct ahead flashgun no diffuser

Direct ahead with flashgun and diffuser

Direct ahead flashgun with diffuser



Front downwards

Front downwards

Light at the front

Light at front

Light behind

Light behind

Light directly above

Light directly above

Light directly down with no diffuser

Light directly down no diffuser

Light slightly in front

Light slightly in front

Right downwards

Right downwards

Same level

Same level



Exercise: Softening the Light

Set up a still life arrangement, with any object or group of objects. Using a diffuse light source to soften the shadows and the highlights, take two photographs, one with the naked lamp, and the other with the diffuser material held between the lamp and the subject.

Looking through this exercise actually prompted me to buy a softbox push on plastic light diffuser for my flashgun. I’d used it a couple of times and found the flash was too harsh, so as an interim I put tissue paper over the flash and held it on with elastic bands, however I wanted to try a more sturdy approach so ordered one of these. I did follow the instructions as part of the course and made my own diffuser out of a cardboard frame (an old mount) and some white tissue paper layered up. I then stretched this around a movable light I had. You will see some of the images are without any diffuser, and some are with; there are examples of the home made diffuser on the light, and also the flashgun with and without a diffuser.

I used the portable studio I had to provide a neutral base and background and set up a small group of objects to create a still life. I positioned myself in front of the still life and took a mixture of images with the light and homemade diffuser.


Flashgun without diffuser                      Flashgun with diffuser

With diffuserWithout diffuser

My results were

With a diffuser

-          Shadows have softer edges

-          The shadows are a lighter colour

-          Highlights are there as I used a shiny subject but less harsh than those non-diffused

Without a diffuser

-          Darker coloured shadows

-          Harsher and more pronounced shadow shapes: e.g. around the Celtic  box

-          More highlights over the subjects especially on the matte surfaces.

Exercise: Outdoors at night

While I will do this exercise, at the moment, I’ve not got easy access to the required situations and locations to enable me to complete this, so I will move onto the other exercises and come back later to this. I feel that out of all the exercises under this subject area, taking images outdoors at night is the topic I’ve had most experience in as I’ve previously taken shots of car light trails when using my film camera, and I’ve also spent time with a tripod and shutter release capturing the illuminated seaside amusements of Whitby.

Exercise: Cloudy weather and rain

The part of this required me to photograph the same view in sunlight and under cloud. I kept the white balance set to daylight for this. The first images of this were taken on a day when the sun was in and out of the clouds, and while I waited for the sun to clear the clouds, I don’t feel that it was bright enough to give me the effect that I wanted. I’ve included an example of that here. My later attempt was on a much brighter day with a lot of wind so that the clouds were passing over the sun much quicker and I feel this is more the contrast I wanted to show.

Building- Cloudy

Building- Sunny








For the second part of the exercise, take three photographs outdoors, on an overcast day, that make good use of the enveloping, shadowless light. Look for some detail that has pronounced relief, and an object with strong colour.

For this part of the exercise, I specifically looked for a subject that had pronounced relief, I was in a park in Liverpool and as there were a number of trees, I took one image of a section of the trunk, and as there had been a lot of leaves suddenly coming off the trees, they had gathered in the hollow of the tree roots so I took an image of that as I like the detail and the colours.

The other image I took needed strong colours and I found that a string of flags put up for the power boating event stood out for me on the cloudy day.


For the third part of this exercise, you will need rain.

For this part of the exercise, on a day when we had sudden heavy rain, I took some images leaning out of the window; this meant that as only the lens was exposed to the elements, that I could get a shot of the rain hitting the street from above.

The second image was taken just after this one when I saw that the rain drops had settled onto a Canadian maple tree we have, and the raindrops accentuated its colour and I really like the glistening water drops.