Update Saturday, Oct. 21 - Oct. 27, 2017
Paint it black
Paint it black was a hit single for the
Rolling Stones about 1966; however, black has been part of photography since
the outset. Black and White photos, called B&W between photographers, brings
a discipline to the art, because it is an art.
The early photographers such as Nicephore Niepce
struggled to produce crisp B&W. He then teamed up with Louis Jacques Mande
Daguerre and experimentation began to get a photographic plate that was
sensitive to the light being directed at the plate.
The early photographers continued to try and find a
suitably sensitive chemical on the plate, to react to the light exposure.
They stumbled along, not getting the sensitivity needed to be able to take a
portrait, as the exposure times would be many, many minutes. Eventually a
savior came in Josef Petzval who invented a lens by which the exposure times
were one 16th the
duration of the previous lenses used. Finally, portraiture was possible, and
photography took off.
Compared to today’s high speed shutters and lenses, the
photographers in the 1800’s still needed to keep the subject very still, and
that is why they used props like walking canes and tables to keep the
subject from moving.
With color photography, the photographer uses
contrasting colors to give a photo impact, such as blue and yellow. I’m sure
you’ve seen the girl in a blue dress in front of a yellow doorway. We have
all done that one. Great pic but by relying on disparate colors, there is no
mystery in the final print. And it is mystery you want. It is mystery that
makes people look deeply at your photographs. It is mystery that draws
people away from ‘record’ shots to ‘art’ shots.
Look at the photos with this week’s column. You know
what it is – a photo of a woman – but the air of mystery stops
identification. Who was she? Why was she there? Was she posed or was it a
‘grab’ shot? The simple answer is only the photographer knew, but it is a
famous Man Ray photo taken in 1924, and the model was Kiki, his mistress.
The other shot was to show how simple ‘hatchet’ lighting can produce B&W
portraits worth hanging on the wall.
So how do you make B&W portraits like these? Forget Man
Ray until you have a willing model, but the second portrait is very easy.
You have to pick the position which has the light coming only from one side.
Or if you have a studio light, you only use one of them
You can even use garden lights, illuminating the model
from one side only. With color, garden lights give a strange orange cast,
but in B&W you don’t care! My first lights were indeed garden lights, with
blue gels taped over them. Not the best source, but again, for hatchet
lighting perfectly adequate.
Try being adventurous this weekend. Hatchet lighting
and see what you get in the end. Both you and the model will be amazed at
what you can produce.
Update Saturday October 14 - October 20, 2017
Mucking around with light
Getting to grips with the concept of
“light” is an important factor for photography, and good photographers are
the ones who have learned how to harness it.
Along with the light there comes the
“dark” which is another factor that good photographers are aware of (ended
the sentence with a preposition, sorry Mr. Editor).
Unfortunately, with the sophistication
in cameras these days, the casual weekend photographer can be excused for
thinking that there is nothing to getting good shots. Set the camera’s mode
to G for Great pix and the electronic ‘smarts’ does the rest. Pity about
chaps like Ansel Adams who used to set up his camera and then wait hours if
necessary to get the best light to result in the magnificent photos he has
left us to enjoy.
In actual fact, it is pity upon us with
our new cameras which do everything for us – but they can’t change the
position of the sun! And much of photography is to do with harnessing the
rays given to us by the great lighting technician in the sky.
Take, for example, photographing the
waves rolling into the shore. The white caps on the top of the waves look
great, but to get that shot you need to have the sun coming from behind you,
at an angle that is almost parallel to the beach. This way the water remains
dark, but the white caps catch the sun’s rays and show very brightly by
So how do you get this shot? Well, you
have to find a beach where the early morning sun’s rays go out to the sea,
in other words from behind you. If you can’t find one facing the right way,
sometimes the late afternoon sun will then be coming from the direction you
want. This is something that your fancy e-camera cannot replicate.
And those two times – early morning and
late afternoon have always been the best times to get good shots. “Cold”
ambience in the early mornings and “warm” ambience in the afternoons. You
can use an 81A or 81B “warming” filter, but the end result is not as good as
that coming from the ethereal light technician. I only use an 81A when the
sky is overcast, or misty grey, but it is a filter worth keeping in the bag,
(The Skylight filter is for counteracting UV light – and left permanently on
the end of the lens is a safeguard.)
Let’s get some spectacular low-light
photographs. Firstly, inactivate the flash, but turn on the automatic mode
for your camera. If you have a tripod, dust it off, but even if you haven’t,
continue. We are about to explore the 1000 K to 2000 K end of the scale.
Go to your local markets and take some
photographs using just the stall-holder’s naked bulb for illumination. Be
prepared to lean against a telephone pole to stop camera shake. But give it
a go. You have nothing to lose.
Now try photographing some of the
hotels at night. Most are quite brightly lit and once again, you may end up
very surprised. Even try some portraits lit by candles only. Use your
imagination, and not the flash!
For interest’s sake and some
technicalities, I mentioned color temperatures which is a term that we
photographers borrowed from physics. However, the photographic color
temperature is not exactly the same as the color temperature defined in
physics, as photographic color temperature is measured only on the relative
intensity of blue to red. However, we borrow the basic measurement scale
from physics and we measure the photographic color temperature in degrees
called Kelvin (K).
The next confusing aspect is that the
photographic color rendition and the human eye do not see colors with the
same intensity. The usual camera colors are ‘balanced’ to around 5,000 K, so
light sources lower in color “temperature” will look orange, even though it
does not look orange to the naked eye. This is why tungsten light sources
produce the orange hue. However, when you balance the color, the light is
balanced against tungsten light by exposing it to a blue tinge, so this time
the light bulb will look white. Try manipulating color temperatures this
Update Saturday October 7 - October 13, 2017
What about Trompe l’oeil this weekend?
Trompe l’œil (French
for “deceive the eye”) is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to
create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three
Forced perspective is a
comparable illusion in architecture.
There are many examples
of trompe l’oei from famous painters, but the art of illusion is nothing
new, originating in the Baroque period, when it refers to perspectival
illusionism, but trompe l’œil dates much further back. It was (and is) often
employed in murals. Instances from Greek and Roman times are known, for
instance in Pompeii. A typical trompe l’œil mural might depict a window,
door, or hallway, intended to suggest a larger room.
My favorite cartoon
character employs trompe l’œil that appears in many Looney Tunes, such as
the Road Runner cartoons, where, for example, Wile E. Coyote paints a tunnel
on a rock wall, and the Road Runner then races through the fake tunnel.
Coyote follows, but the tunnel was just a painted illusion.
artists use chalk on pavement or sidewalk to create trompe l’œil works, a
technique called street painting or “pavement art.” These creations last
only until they are washed away, and therefore they must be photographed to
From the photographic
point of view, you can set up trompe l’oeil images, such as combining moon
shots with a person apparently holding the moon in their hand.
Other images can be
recorded in commercial art shows where you can stand in front of a
‘realistic’ painted background making it look as if you are feeding a
dinosaur for example. All to deceive the eye.
Those who are savvy
with post-production apps such as Photoshop can combine images, but I like
to see you do all this in the camera, rather than afterwards. It can be a
very rewarding project.
Trompe l’oeil images do
not require fancy cameras, though I would suggest even a compact rather than
a phone-cam. You are trying to project realism, so you may as well start
with a camera that can give you sharp images.
The Bentley crashing
through the wall is a mural in The Venue Mabprachan music pub. The number
plate you can work out for yourselves!.