Back Lighting – Part 4

Lighting is an art all of its own. I think I have mentioned this in several ways previous in this series, however I want to impress you with the value of lighting well placed. “Good lighting” is not always “good enough”. I do not mean to make this a diatribe, just a way to help us break out of our routine lighting techniques and learn something more which will add to our photography value.

There are some unique uses of lighting and techniques equally as creative. One of these techniques is included in the category of Back Lighting, but it takes an odd form. In this illustration to the right, this set-up uses only reflected light. The advantage of using only reflected light from this set-up is this: Reducing the harsh lighting on the surface of the glass, or surfaces like it, provides the illumination required to see the glass as well as giving a wonderful view of the drink in the glass.

I have a fantastic imagination with which I can rationalize answers to pictures or illustrations. However, I want to explain some things which I know I have imagined: I have little experience with flashes, but I have imagined my light source in this illustration as a flash. I have other lights positioned in my mind to add light to the shot, but every other light is a non-flash studio light. Next, since I basically drew this illustration, I was not sure how to illustrate the opaque density of the background Styrofoam board, so instead I will tell you, this technique is based partly on the fact that no light will come through the Styrofoam background and relying on the side lighting from the reflectors.

Just because my illustration has only one light source, does not mean this technique is not valid with more. Have fun with this technique, learning from it and increase its versatility.

Back Lighting – Part 3

Back Lighting within the confines of a room will fill with light faster than outdoors. In contrast this same room will take more time to fill than a soft box. This is a rather obvious statement I know, however I must often remind myself of this fact within the context that light moves at the speed of 186,000 miles per second. I still have a hard time truly comprehending that number.

Perhaps this will help to comprehend the speed of light from our flashes to think of light in miles traveled in 1 second contrasted to the circumference of the earth. Light traveling at 186,000 miles per second around the earths 25,000 miles (rounded to the nearest thousand for simplicity) will lap the earth 7 times and then some in 1 second! Is that fast enough for you?

The theory of Back Lighting has more to do with the saturation of light into the camera lens than light’s speed, so I will not distract us with more facts. I do want to impress you with the speed of light in that light is reflected, refracted and split again throughout the staging room while your shutter is open. So position your flashes and other light tools wisely so as to capture the most light as possible with you camera.

In your style of Back Lighting, do you want to see the light source? Place so as to draw the viewers focus to you subject. The picture above unintentionally captured the light and movement of a passing vehicle, so it is not as I would have set-up the shot, but is a good demonstration of being spontaneous in life’s unique moments. The picture below illustrates my point of using the light source to draw a viewers focus toward the subject. The light from the moon is vignetted in a spreading ray toward my subject while at the same time Back Lighting him in dramatic effect.

The first photo in this post also uses some techniques of Back Lighting without silhouetting my subject. Silhouetting is most often used to emphasize the edges or shape of the subject (whether it is person or object). This is done in both pictures: Picture 1, by illuminating the side of the subject and letting the shadow on the other side disappear into the surrounding background. Picture 2, is contrasting the head and shoulders of the subject against the semi-illuminated sky in the reflected light of the moon.

Enjoy these techniques. Get out and play with long shutter releases and beautiful skies!

Light Has Color? Part 2 – White Balance

Have you noticed some shadows have a little bit of color to them? Clouds for instance; some clouds on mostly clear days have a sort of blue hue to them. I can not help but wonder in noticing this and with the understanding of the how and why rainbows are made we can understand the process of a camera’s White Balance.

Looking at pure light as a simple harmony of ROY G. BIV producing a brilliant “white”, we have laid the foundation to working with camera White Balance. Now camera are not charged only to filter natural sources of light but also other forms of light produced by man-made light sources. Since we have seen that light can be divided into 7 color forms, the basics of our study tell us that we will be dealing with more of 1 color than the other 6. It is possible that we would be dealing with a sever lack of 1 or more colors, but since our color pallette is only based with 7, our filters can be adequately limited.

White Balance is the effort of compensating for the lack of or overdose of a specific color through the use of filters. This is also the job of Image Specialists. One of their most common jobs is “color correction”. So software is outfitted with the ability to manipulate the colors which may lack or overwhelm the captured photo.

For interest sake I have made a list of ways that light is produced, natural and man-made.

Element (Metallic element made to conduct enough energy to glow without quickly exhausting the element’s lifespan.)
Vapor (Gases – Fluorescent, Mercury Vapor and Fire are uses of vapor in proper conditions to yield the production of light.)
Chemical (Liquid – Phosphorescence and Glow sticks)
Electronic (LED)

Take care and do not be afraid to ask questions. Learning is a wonderful opportunity!

High Dynamic Range

Almost everyone has something to “show off” or say about HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos. Well, I am like everyone else in that I have played with HDR photos, using it and many other techniques to draw out the beauty of each photo’s subject. However, I can not say that I am completely enamored with HDRs more than any other technique.

So why write about HDRs on your blog if you do not like them more than other techniques, right? Ah, well that is the beauty of appreciating each tool that is at our disposal without over playing any one of them!

Please do not misunderstand my position. I like HDR photos, but I do not want the HDR technique to be so commonly used that it is no more amazing than any ordinary thing! A lot of things should be used in moderation. For example, would you add a tablespoon of salt to your bowl of soup? No! Salt is best used in moderate amounts, often spoken of by saying “add salt to taste.” It is this same principle by which I wish to use the HDR technique.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

HDR photos can be used in several ways. Again, I do not wish to disparage the use of HDR or call it “cheating”, because many things are required in shooting HDR. Just a few examples are:

  1. An in-depth knowledge of lighting.
  2. Vast experience in camera handling.
  3. Pointed expertise with image editing.
  4. Measured speed and timing of the shutter releases.
  5. Knowledge of how your camera sees the scene.
  6. Specific settings for each captured image.

So in no way is it cheating! Certainly some who may speak less of shooting High Dynamic Range photos would be correct to say it is not worth the effort because their ‘niche’ does not cater to the technique. Since I am a “minimalist” photographer, I love HDR for the fact that I can get 3+ photos, edit them together and “voila!” the photo has all of the detail we can naturally see!

Yes, I know that there are good reasons to use flashes and studio strobes; but why, with so many other techniques at my disposal, would I sacrifice the artistic ambiance for using flashes? It seems to me, to use such logic would be the same as saying “I cut my nose off because I run into the stone pillar.” Well okay, Cyrano,  but I would rather utilize all of my standard equipment than remove it because I tried to make it occupy the same space as a solid mass!

One other use of an HDR is to draw out the color of the scene creating a “wow” factor unsurpassed in any form of natural art I have ever seen. I have mainly seen the HDR used in this way for landscapes, seascapes and city scenes.

Thank you for reading!