Saturday, 17 December 2011

Experimental Photography: Painting with Light

Painting with light photographs are extremely effective images, which are very easy to produce. The basic principle to producing a painting with light image is to get hold of a light source e.g. a torch. Photographers will then use this light source to either feature in the photograph, to paint light trails, or, to light the subject within the photograph, where it is not seen in the image itself. By experimenting with different lights, subjects, colours of lights, and the camera's aperture size and shutter speed, you can create some impressive photographs that look modern and arty. This technique of photography can take a while to master, but sometimes, photographs that you think went wrong, can produce some very striking results. This is why I enjoy the painting with light process so much. 

You need to be able to control the shutter speed and aperture size of your camera when using this technique, so if you don’t have a Digital SLR camera, or the ability to use manual mode on your compact camera, then the `Night Mode` setting on your camera would probably be your best opinion for producing painting with light images.

Here are five simple steps for you to follow if you want to take your very own painting with light image:

1. The basic principle to producing painting with light images is to have a light source e.g. a torch. If you are going to paint with the light source itself, where it is moving within the photograph, it is very important to set the camera up on a tripod, to keep it still. The other alternative would be to keep the light source still and to move the camera.  

2. Set the camera to the shutter speed control mode, `Tv` mode if you have a Canon. This will allow you to control the time that the shutter remains open for. Set the shutter speed to, let’s say, ten seconds; this will allow you to get a good amount of movement from your light source. The aperture will probably set itself to f-stop 8.

3. Next, if you are painting onto a subject, shine the light onto it, and using manual focus, focus it into the shot. If you are painting with the light source itself, then focus the place where you are going to stand.

4. When you are ready, set the camera to timer so you have time to get into place.

5. Now, when you press the shutter release button, you will be able to get into position and when the shutter opens, you can start painting with light by moving the light source. 

When the shutter closes and you look at your image, you will be able to see the light trail that you have drawn. This is because all the time the shutter was open, the camera's sensor was picking up all the movement of your light source, causing this trail of light that you can see in your image. You can experiment a lot with this technique to produce some outstanding images. An easy place to start would be to draw simple shapes, like stars and swirls with your light source. You can then try outlining objects to give them a bold light trail outline. This would also allow for a very atmospheric glow from the object itself. 

Here are some of my photographs I have produced using this painting with light technique:

Click on the images to enlarge them.

Fire Spin
I was inspired to take this image after studying the photograph titled `Spider on the Track` taken by Brent Pearson. The equipment I used to create this image included my tripod, a household whisk, some chain, some steel wool, and a lighter. The basic principle to creating this image is to attach some chain, around 34 inches long, to the handle of the whisk. Then, get a medium sized handful of steel wool and stretch it out, being careful not to rip it apart. You stretch it out to allow more oxygen to come into contact with a larger surface area of the wool when you are burning it later. Once you have stretched it out, place the steel wool inside your whisk, spreading it out inside the whisk cavity. Now, go to somewhere that isn’t going to be a fire hazard, e.g. a wet field. For my photograph, I stood on a cattle trough, which was situated in a field. It was raining whilst I took this photograph, so there was no chance for a fire to occur. As my steel wool didn’t spark for very long in my pervious tests, I used a shutter speed of 10 seconds and an f-stop of 5.6 for this image. I set up my camera on the tripod and got my assistant to stand on top of the trough, shining the light on herself, whilst I focused her into the frame. I then put the camera on a ten second timer and got into position. Just before the ten seconds were up, I used the lighter to get the steel wool smouldering, as it only creates the sparks when you spin it quickly. Once my assistant told me the shutter had been released, I began to spin the chain which ignited the steel wool causing it to spark. I continued spinning it until I was told the shutter had closed. The outcome of this technique is extremely impressive, and one that I would definitely like to experiment with in the future. 

Light Graffiti
I took this photograph in an empty barn, as I wanted to create a large landscape image, something that I wouldn't have been able to do in a studio. To create this image, I set my camera up on a tripod and set it to the `Tv` setting, the shutter speed priority setting. This would therefore enable me to control how long the shutter was open for. For this image, a shutter speed of 25 seconds was used. This gave my assistant plenty of time to paint with the light source. An f-stop of around 4 would have been used with this shutter speed. After setting the shutter speed and aperture up, I got my assistant to shine the torch on himself so I could focus him into the photograph. After using manual focus to focus the shot, I put my camera on timer, and waited for the shutter to be released before telling my assistant to start painting this abstract pattern as soon as the shutter opened. The randomness of the light trails has created a really abstract photograph. 

Shining the Light onto Myself 
I used the other painting with light technique here, creating the illusion of six versions of me. By shining the light onto myself from my stomach up, for about four seconds in each stage, and then switching it off and moving to my next position, I was able to produce a photograph where it appears that there are six of me. I used a shutter speed of 30 seconds for this photograph as it was needed for the camera to have time to capture each of my positions. An f-stop of 4 was used to allow as much light into the lens as possible. With the positioning of my characters, the under lighting, and the silhouetted trees, the overall feel to this image is a spooky one. The way in which the character nearest the camera is crouching, with his hand on the floor, is quite scary as you can’t see him at first, until you spot his hand, as his face is white due to it being over exposed to the bright light. I also like the aeroplane that has created a red light trail in the sky, located in the top left third of the image. It’s a nice feature to the photograph, even though it was unplanned. 

Light Laser
I took this painting with light image in a barn; like my other image that was taken in a barn, I needed a large amount of space to work with. The theme to this image is me, on the far right of the image, firing a light trail `laser beam` at my friend, who is positioned on the far left of the image. Because of the complexness of this image, it took me quite a few times to get it right. The large amount of movement meant that I needed a long shutter speed of 30 seconds and an f-stop of 4. First of all, I got my friend to stand where I am standing in the image, so I could focus the photograph. I must mention that the camera was set-up on a tripod, to keep it perfectly still, and to stop any motion blur. I set the camera to a ten second timer to allow us both plenty of time to get into our positions. Once I heard the shutter being released, I shone the torch on myself for about four seconds, I then switched it off and placed it in front of my hand where the `laser beam` is coming out of, before turning it back on again. I then began to move forward, moving the torch in a circular motion. As I got close to the end position of the photograph, I told my friend to come into the frame and stand in her position; whilst she got into her pose, I turned the torch off to avoid any motion blur. When she was ready, I shone the torch on her for four seconds, like I did with myself at the beginning of the image; I then turned the torch off. I was really impressed with the image when I saw it and was really happy with the natural exposure level. I like the way the barn floor has been lit in certain areas, creating the effect that it is glowing. This photograph is a great example of how the simple technique of painting with light can be experimented with and taken to a new level, in order to produce a stunning image.

Top Tip: 
`When taking photographs using the painting with light technique, don't be afraid to experiment! This is why this post is titled `Experimental Photography`, because you need to experiment in order to create your own unique photographs.
A good starting point is to move your light source in all different directions and to draw different patterns when the shutter is released; you are sure to end up with an impressive abstract painting with light photograph by doing this.`

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Time Photography

In this post I have included a selection of photographs that I produced for a photography project titled: `The Time Project`. The aim of this project was to experiment with time through the medium of photography; I did this by using fast and slow shutter speeds, and also by creating sequenced photographs. This project was great fun and has enabled me to produce some really interesting images. I hope you enjoy them! 

Click on the images to enlarge them.

BMX Jump
This photograph was taken at my local skate park, where I asked one of the BMX riders if he could do the jump you can see in the image above. I set my camera up on a tripod and selected `Manual` mode, before selecting a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second. The use of `Manual` mode is very important if you want to produce images like this one, as you need to ensure that each photograph has been taken using exactly the same settings. If you use `Auto` mode on your camera, with each photograph you take, your camera could be taking them with different exposure times, therefore, each image may appear with a different level of brightness. The use of `Manual` mode, also meant that I used `Manual focus`, and so I asked my subject to do a test run so I could focus him into the shot. When he was ready, I held my finger on the shutter release button, which then took continuous photographs at a rate of three frames per second. Now that I had got my images, I went into Photoshop and started to edit them to together. You can find tutorials on how to produce sequenced photographs like this on YouTube, just type in: `How to make a sequence in Photoshop`. 

Golden Syrup
This photograph depicts golden syrup that I drizzled into an egg cup using a spoon. I took this image using a fast shutter speed to capture the syrup as it fell from the spoon and landed in the egg cup, so that the syrup appeared sharp and in focus. I used a very simple set-up for this photograph; I took this image in my kitchen, using my 70mm-300mm telephoto lens. The lighting set-up consisted of two desk lamps to light the egg cup with the syrup in, and another desk lamp to light the backdrop of the photograph, which was just a piece of white paper. I used `Manual` mode when taking this photograph as I needed to adjust the aperture according to the shutter speed, to get the perfect exposure level for the image. I needed a really large aperture setting, and therefore a small f stop setting, in order to allow as much light as possible into the lens, as I was using a fast shutter speed. It is important to note that I had my camera set up on a tripod and used the timer on my camera to take ten consecutive photographs at a rate of three frames per second. After selecting the best photograph and a little editing in Photoshop, the image was complete.

Milk Splash
I took this photograph using exactly the same setup as my image titled: `Golden Syrup`. I was inspired to take this photograph after studying Harold Edgerton, who wanting to produce and photograph a perfect coronet from a single drop of milk falling into a liquid. His final image titled: `Milk Drop Coronet` is extremely impressive, especially considering that it was taken in 1957. My photograph depicts milk being poured into a glass containing milk that has had red food colouring added to it. I added red food colouring to the milk as I wanted to create a more vibrant and abstract photograph. The red colour also allows for the white milk being poured into the glass, to be seen more clearly. I really like how the milk that is being poured appears so straight and cylindrical, almost like a straw. As it can't be easily identified as milk at first, it adds an element of mystery to the photograph, as the viewer is left wondering what is being poured into the red liquid. 

Eerie Seascape
This seascape is an example of an image that has been produced using a slow shutter speed. I set my camera to `Manual` mode and used a shutter speed of two seconds, along with the smallest aperture size/largest f stop setting I could get, to allow me to get the perfect exposure level for this photograph. Once my camera was ready, I set it up on a tripod and got the shot level so that the horizon was perfectly flat. It is so important to use a tripod when taking images with a shutter speed slower then 1/60 of a second, as the subjects you want to stay still in your image, will blur due to camera shake. The aim of this photograph was to capture the groyne in focus, whilst the slow shutter speed would capture the movement of the water, as it moved in-between the groyne pillars. The effect that occurs is rather magical, as the water appears misty and `milky`. This is because of the motion blur created from the waters movement when the shutter was open. The groyne appears sharp and in focus as it is not moving, but the water is, thus creating the misty effect. I edited the image into grey-scale and darkened some areas of the photograph so that the misty texture was more prominent, creating a rather eerie seascape image. 

Top Tip:
`I know it looks complicated and difficult to understand, but try and get to grips with your cameras `Manual` mode if you have a Digital SLR. Using the `Manual` mode enables you to take photographs exactly how you want to take them, unlike the pre-set modes on your camera, that will adjust the individual settings like shutter speed and aperture for you. 
All it takes is a bit of experimenting and you’ll be using `Manual` mode like a pro! If you do get stuck, don’t worry, just look in photography magazines or on the internet for the answers you need. ` 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Self-Portrait Photography

In this post I am going to be looking at self-portrait photography and have included three photographs that I took as part of my self-portrait project.

Self-portraiture is the art of capturing the person who is creating a piece of work, in the piece itself. So, if an artist were to paint a portrait of themselves onto a canvas, this would be a self-portrait piece of work. The same theory applies to photographers; if a photographer took a photograph of themselves, let’s say in the reflection of a mirror, this would be a self-portrait photograph, as they, the creator of the photograph, are featured in the image. Self-portrait photographs can be extremely powerful in conveying the mood, emotion, and character of the subject. However, a self-portrait doesn't have to feature the persons face, it can include objects that are very important to that person, in order to convey their character. For example, if someone was really into cycling, they could photograph a bike and use that as their self-portrait image, as it is a part of who they are.

After producing a coursework project on portrait photography last year, I edited nearly all of my images into grey-scale; I believe that this allows for the image to be `stripped` down of any distractions and enables the viewer to solely focus on the subject’s character within the image.

All these images were taken on my Canon EOS 500D with my standard 18-55mm lens.
Click on the images to enlarge them.

`Atlas` - Douglas Benge
I produced this self-portrait image with a map that is seemingly `wrapped` over my face, to convey my love for travelling. I also wanted to try and experiment a bit with Photoshop for this image. There were a lot of editing processes involved within the creation of this image, from clipping masks to the lasso tool, overlaying and using the blurring filter. The main process I used was the `Displace` filter in Photoshop, this can be found under `Filter`, `Distort` and then `Displace`. There are plenty of tutorials on `YouTube` showing you how to use the `Displace` filter, just type in `Photoshop Tutorial - Displacement Map`.

Douglas Benge
I was inspired to take this photograph after studying Mikael Eliasson, a portrait photographer who photographs most of his subjects posing with blank expressions­. I have gone about this by creating a really simple set up in terms of framing and composition. My head is in the centre of the frame, still leaving some thinking space for the viewer; this is much like Eliasson’s style of framing, with the subject composed right in the centre of the image. Eliasson’s portraits are almost all in colour, there wasn’t much colour tone within my image; I therefore edited it into grey-scale. I then adjusted the brightness and contrast to the level that I wanted. Just to experiment, I put both the brightness and contrast levels up as high as they would go, I decided that this looked really effective, so left it as my final image. The blank expression on my face along with the use of grey-scale lets the viewer look into my eyes and decide for themselves who I am.

`My Style` - Douglas Benge
I have produced this photograph in the way that I have, to convey my passion for `old style` photography. I am really interested in grey-scale photography and have always believed that old photographs, quite often, have so much more character then any modern photographs that have been edited into the `old style` of photography. I have quite a unique style of photography and wanted to try and combine this with my passion for `old style` photographs. The strange facial expression I am pulling connotes my unique character and photographic style. I edited the image into grey-scale, as well as adding grain, a scratched texture, a negative film-strip, and a vignette effect to try and add age to the photograph. I edited a glass plate negative frame onto my image, to give it that final touch, aging the photograph even more. I am really pleased with the final result, as I believe it illustrates my character perfectly.

Top Tip:
`When taking self-portrait photographs, be yourself! The photograph is about you and is focused on conveying your character to the viewer. 
Remember, you don’t always have to include yourself in the image; you could just photograph something that means a lot to you, or an object that conveys your character.`

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Telephoto Lens Photography

A telephoto lens will enable you as a photographer to fill the frame with your subject, without actually being that close to them. This type of lens is therefore often used when photographing wildlife or sporting events, where it is not possible to get close to the subject(s). 

There are many other benefits that telephoto lenses have compared to a standard lens:
  • They increase background blur of an image (they produce a shallow depth of field)
  • They flatten the perspective when photographing portraits
  • Not only can they be used to photograph subjects far away, you can produce some really detailed photographs of subjects like flowers and plants using a telephoto lens; the shallow depth of field created by the lens is very effective when photographing these types of subjects.

In this post I have included some photographs that I took with my new telephoto camera lens which is the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens. The `IS` used here means `Image Stabilisation`, this comes in very handy as you are often zooming in onto a subject that can be very far away, `IS` therefore reduces camera shake. The `USM` feature of the lens stands for `UltraSonic Motor` which means the lens has a small motor built into its body, enabling it to auto focus faster than a standard lens. 

All these photographs were taken with my telephoto lens on my Canon EOS 500D camera body.
Click on the images to enlarge them.

A Squirrel Climbing a Tree
This photograph was taken in my local park and features a Squirrel that couldn't have posed any better for this photograph. I began by photographing him on the ground before he ran up the tree, stopping half way to turn around and look at me. He froze in this position for a couple of seconds enabling me to take this photograph. I was stood around five metres away from the squirrel when I took the photograph, this demonstrates just how well a telephoto lens works. The shallow depth of field that a telephoto lens creates in photographs is very evident here, with the grass in the background of the image completely out of focus.    

Catch Me If You Can!
At my local Air Show, I spotted a good opportunity to photograph the two main subjects of the show, the aeroplanes and the seagulls, who flocked to the beach where spectators sat with their picnics. After many photographs later, trying to get a seagull and the two aeroplanes in the shot, I managed to produce this image. I caught the seagull with its wings fully extended, filling out the frame of the photograph as the aeroplanes turned in the background, moving in the direction of the seagull. The fast shutter speed I used here has enabled me to capture this moment with the subjects sharply in focus.

A Pigeon Perched on a Fence
I carried some bread in my bag whilst on my visit to the park, in the hope that this would tempt subjects to come closer to me than usual. This pigeon spotted me as I was just putting away my bread bag, it then perched on the fence about two and a half metres away from me, it was then that I took this photograph. I gave the pigeon some bread when I had finished photographing it to reward its efforts as such a fine subject! Although this pigeon was much closer to me then the squirrel was in my previous photograph included in this post, the telephoto lens I used still created a shallow depth of field within my image.


This photograph depicts one of my cats called `Squeak` and was actually one of the first photographs I took with my new telephoto lens. My telephoto lens worked really well in this photograph as it flattened the perspective of the subject, allowing me to get all of him in focus with the background of the image completely blurred. Although Squeak kept moving his head, looking around in different directions, I managed to capture him just as he looked into the lens, producing a rather striking photograph. The grey-scale effect of this image adds great contrast to the photograph and really allows for Squeak's fur pattern to stand out.

Top Tip:
`When using a telephoto lens, use high shutter speeds and a tripod when possible; this will ensure that the subjects within your image appear sharp and in focus.
By using a telephoto lens, you are magnifying an image, this however means that you are magnifying camera movement as well. Therefore, by using fast shutter speeds and a tripod, you will counteract this camera movement.`

If you are really sure you would like to invest in a telephoto lens, then it would be worthwhile investing in a lens hood as well. A lens hood simply fits onto the end of your lens and reduces flare that bright light sources can create within your images, especially if you are shooting towards the light source itself. For my lens, I have a `Canon ET-65B` lens hood, this works really well and stops excess light from entering my lens, reducing flare.

Next week I will be focusing on `Self Portraiture`, so get your cameras at the ready! 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Line and Space Photography

Featured in this post are a selection of photographs that I produced for a project titled, `Lines and Spaces`. All these photographs were shot on my Canon EOS 500D. I hope you enjoy them!
Click on the images to enlarge them.

Hastings College
This photograph features a section of the Hastings College building in East Sussex. This is a rather abstract image, with the blue sky and white building contrasting to the darkened windows of the college. The metal frames shading the windows create lines within the photograph and cast interesting shadows onto the building.

Acoustic Guitar Neck
The subject in this photograph is the neck of an acoustic guitar. I positioned my camera near the head stock of the guitar, facing down the neck, towards the guitar's body, I then took this image. Lines and spaces are a very predominant factor within this photograph as you can see the spacing between the guitar's frets very clearly, with the strings running in and out of focus over them. The shallow depth of field in this image has been created by the fact that I was fully zoomed in at 55mm's when taking this photograph.

Net Huts at Hastings
Whilst studying Bernd and Hilla Becher, known for their photographs of `Water Towers`, I discovered a technique within architectural photography that was particularly interesting. They would quite simply photograph their subject from afar, with it framed in the centre of the image; there were no fancy angels involved or special camera equipment, their style of photography would like the building itself do the talking. This is what I have tried to recreate in this photograph of the Net Huts on Hastings Seafront, East Sussex.

Underside of a Snare Drum
This photograph depicts the curled metal wire snares that run along the bottom skin of a snare drum. By using the `Macro Mode` on my Canon EOS 500D, I was able to produce quite an inspiring image as the wire snares create a great deal of perspective, drawing closer together at the top of the photograph. I placed a piece of black card underneath the snares as the transparent skin of the drum didn't allow the snares to stand out, losing focus to the image. The shallow depth of field within this image creates blurring both in the foreground and background of the photograph, producing circular patterns that create an eye-line to the image, drawing your attention to the wire snares that are in focus.

Top Tip: 
`When photographing close-ups of objects or using the macro mode on your camera, use manual focus; it will enable you to choose exactly where you want your focus to be and will allow you to control the depth of field within your image`