Exercise 4.4

For this exercise I have chosen a pine cone as the subject as it presents an interesting shape, with some colour, but also high levels of contrast between the inner parts and the outside.  The cone was mounted on a skewer held up by a vice so that it was free floating and not resting on any surface.  I placed it in front of a card background – one black and one white for the purposes of experimentation.  For lighting I used a combination of natural light from a window next to the desk where I set up the cone, a constant LED, and a camera mounted flash.  I had intended also to use the flash remotely but unfortunately the lead that I bought, although described as ETTL, was in fact only TTL and therefore was incompatible with my camera and flash pairing:  Canon EOS 70D and Canon Speedlite 430EXII.  If I can get hold of a suitable lead before too long I will revisit this to see what difference a remote flash unit can make.

The camera was set to P mode the easier to communicate with the flash.  ISO 100.  Lens was a Canon EF 100mm 1:2.8 Macro because of the relative closeness to the subject.  Camera was mounted on a tripod for the anticipated long exposures.

What I have tried to do is to capture different aspects of the shape and texture of the pine cone simply by moving the light source.  The fourth image was taken just with direct flash from the gun mounted on the camera to give a less dramatised view of the object, to give a more neutral view of it, show its true colours and shape without overemphasis, as a sort of counterpose to all the others.

f/10, 8s, no flash

f/2.8, 5s, flash

f/2.8, 2.5s, flash

f/2.8, 1/60s, flash

f/2.8, 1s, no flash

f/2.8, 1.6s, no flash

Here are some basic sketches of how the light was arranged for each shot.



What I find particularly striking, as I suppose I expected, is how different each view is whilst in each case it is still clearly recognisable as the same subject.  Fixed lighting seems to give the more dramatic effects whereas direct flash lighting tends to flatten everything out.  The effects of the flash are more subtle when used indirectly. Direct flash tends to flatten the object, if not just wash it out.  I would expect even more character from the light if I had been able to use the flash gun remotely from the camera.  That is something that I am going to have to come back to in due course.

Equally striking is how effective natural light, unmediated in any way, can be when used directionally, as in the fifth image which just used daylight from a window to the side of the object.

What do I notice that these images have in common with those I took for exercises 4.2 and 4.3?  What I get in particular is a sense that direction and intensity of the light are important if an impression of the subject as a physical, 3d object, is to be captured in two dimensions.  Light and shade are what gives the object form.  If evenly lit or the light is diffuse or undirected the final image is flat and the object lacks body. Obvious really but worth restating.   What this calls to mind is skiing many years ago in very misty, diffuse light, without tinted goggles or glasses, and being confronted with a featureless expanse of snow.  Because of the lack of any sense of contrast I could not see the true nature of the surface of the snow, which for all I knew was as smooth and featureless as a blank sheet of paper.  Inevitably I hit a bump and ended up face down in an ungainly heap!


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