Supplemental Lighting Revisited

024_JemezBuddhaIn night photography, our use of supplemental lighting can add a whole new dimension to picture taking than the standard still fill lighting.

With long exposures, stationary lighting can be used to capture changes that unfold during an expanded moment.

Instead of focusing on lighting things, we should think more about lighting the space that surrounds our scene.

Then anticipate how we will catch any movement or change appearing in the light while the shutter remains open.

We can treat our scene like a fixer upper, and extend our use of supplemental lighting for the sole purpose of highlighting otherwise unseen motion.

The idea is to go further than just filling in the blanks. We allow our camera to see changes in time, and capture all of the moments beyond the momentary. In short, we supplement our vision by supplementing our lighting.

By lighting movement, we enhance the scene with something we see only in our mind’s eye, and create a more dynamic or expressive image.

IMAGE : Buddha, Jemez Springs, NM

Every New Years Eve, the Bodhi Mandala Zen Center lights their grounds with farolitos for a walking meditation. The most photogenic area is the hot springs next to the Jemez River.

I wanted to capture more than just the figure of Buddha and the bags of light. I placed a lantern behind the statue to catch the steam rising from the hot springs, and create the inspirational light I envisioned.

The lantern played a dual role. It provided fill lighting for the background, and illuminated the rising steam in the foreground.

I came up with the lighting idea when I did not have any lighting tools with me. So I had to wait a year to return to the scene to capture the image I imagined.

This image is a 30 second exposure shot at f8 with TMAX 3200 film, chosen from an entire roll of film shot to capture as many variations of the ethereal lighting as possible.

IMAGE TINT : GalleryAshWarm

A warm grayish tint was chosen to boost the intimate appearance of the glowing mist.

This B&W image was tinted in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GalleryAshWarm” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Supplemental Lighting Revisited

Find a nighttime scene with repeating movement. This can be subtle or dramatic. Add fill lighting to guarantee that the motion is caught throughout the exposure.

Bracket your exposures, and compare how the changes were captured at different shutter speeds. Take the time to capture many image variations.

Search your results for the image that best satisfies your expectation of the dynamic scene.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Supplemental Lighting Revisited

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Light Painting”

 


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Supplemental Lighting

023_YosemitePioneerCabinSupplemental lighting at night goes way beyond the usual fill lighting to which we have grown accustomed in daylight.

Fill lighting a nighttime scene begins with the same goal. We add lighting to highlight missing details hidden in the shadows, or to draw more attention to certain objects or areas of a scene.

Typically, this is done by distributing one or more stationary lights throughout the landscape, enhancing the scene with light that persists during the entire exposure.

But at night, we can also introduce light sources into a composition, something that would have little or no effect in sunlight.

Extra light sources can be hidden to light desired portions of a setting, or displayed in plain sight to grace a scene with additional points of interest.

We can think of our subject as the raw material that we enhance to literally bring our vision to light, a personalized interpretation unseen by the average passerby.

The nice thing about nighttime fill lighting, with lanterns, flashlights or other lighting tools, is that we can see what to expect before we open the shutter.

We already spend a lot of time taking long exposures. We might as well take the time to experiment with supplemental lighting, and get what we want, not just what we are given.

This is similar to selective exposure except we are adding to an expanded moment instead subtracting from it, and creating our own version of the great diversity of light.

IMAGE : Pioneer Cabin, Yosemite, CA

  • Mouse over the image above to view the raw scene without added lighting. If mouse over does not work, go to Supplemental Lighting on my blog.

This is the first cabin built in Yosemite in the 1870′s. It is preserved at the Pioneer History Center in an area of the park called Wawona. This is one spooky place at night. I spent over an hour shooting this cabin. It felt like someone was watching me the whole time.

The setting was lit by moonlight from the upper right and a light to the left. Both created deep shadows. After stacking a bunch of nearby firewood 4 to 5 feet high, I put a lantern on top of the pile to light the sides of the cabin.

I wanted to light the inside of the cabin but it was locked. So I placed a flashlight on the window sill on the opposite side, shining it through the cabin onto the window in the image.

The added lighting gave the cabin a nice sense of moonlight, along with that “someone is at home” look. Without it, the dark shadows convey that eerie look and feel I experienced.

The final image is a 1 minute exposure shot at f8 with TMAX 3200 film. It was chosen from multiple bracketing sessions, each with a different combination of lighting.

IMAGE TINT : GallerySeleniumGoldToner

A traditional blend of Selenium and Gold toners was applied to the image to strengthen the look of moonlight pouring over the cabin of yesteryear.

This B&W image was tinted in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GallerySeleniumGoldToner” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Supplemental Lighting

Equip yourself with a small arsenal of lighting tools the next time you venture into the night to photograph. Find a scene that begs for additional lighting, and play with the possibilities.

There are a vast number of choices, so be patient. Explore a variety of ways to add lights and lighting to your subject. Keep it simple, but be thorough.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Supplemental Lighting

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Supplemental Lighting Revisited”

 


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Inspirational Light

022_SantaClaraLightedOneThere are many kinds of light and lighting to explore in the great diversity of light we find at night.

One of the most dramatic is seen as streaks of light breaking through the atmosphere, usually caught by fog, mist, dust or smoke.

Often this style of lighting depicts a more spiritual or ethereal aspect of a subject, and can be thought of as inspirational light.

It adds significance and strength to an otherwise average subject, creating something greater than the subject itself.

The light energizes the subject, brings it to life, and makes it more compelling.

In the daytime, this unique light is commonly seen as shafts of sunlight streaming out of the clouds, shining down on us from above, as if the sky is opening up and speaking to us.

At night, this evocative light is seen as beams from veiled light sources stretching upward toward the heavens, or reaching out into the world from some dark corner.

Shafts of light create an interesting visual paradox. As the beams pull our eye away from the subject, the light actually draws more attention to the subject, giving it greater import.

IMAGE : Lighted One, Santa Clara, CA

This statue of ”Our Lady, Queen of Peace” stands 32 feet tall, and is lit from below by a bright spotlight. It is part of the Roman Catholic parish of the Diocese of San Jose.

returned to this scene many times in search of a shot that would portray the essence of this religious symbol. I finally captured the sense of spiritual light I was hoping for in heavy fog. The figure was made of a metal mesh that added a sense of light shining from within.

This image was a 30 second exposure shot at f16 with TMAX 3200 film.

IMAGE TINT : GallerySelenium

Selenium toning creates a cool purplish hue in the darker tones and cools the highlights. The toning was used to strengthen the tonal separation in the statue and streaks of light.

This B&W image was toned in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GallerySelenium” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Inspirational Light

Look for beams from a single light source caught by some atmospheric effect, like rain, fog or smoke. Compose an image to capture the inspirational light.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Inspirational Light

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Supplemental Lighting”

 


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Why Bracketing?

YosemiteAhwahneeSo how do we get that one ideal exposure in night photography?

The answer is … there isn’t one. That is, there isn’t just one.

Maybe the question oughta be, how do we capture an expressive image at night?

Getting a technically accurate exposure is not always the same as finding an expressive one. The former is commonly treated as purely objective, and can be analyzed to death. The latter is more subjective, and rests solely on what we see and how we see.

Unlike daytime photography, there is a lot less conventional wisdom about how nighttime images should look. Getting an expressive exposure is not just about matching what we see with our naked eye. Bracketing gives us the freedom to explore the possibilities.

One of the great benefits of bracketing long exposures is that we end up finding more than we are looking for. After all we are not just trying to take pictures. We are striving to make expressive images that reflect our own personal style and vision.

The more image variations we capture, the more options we have to choose from, and the greater the opportunities to discover, or rediscover, our ideal of the light we see at night.

Under exposure can produce an extremely low key, minimalistic style image that is dark and mysterious with very few details.

Over exposure can create a high key, impressionistic image with a strong sense of light, or a gentle glow reminiscent of soft focus lenses used early in the 20th century.

The result of over exposure is not the same as changing the luminance curve during image editing. The subtleties due to light spread create a unique look that cannot be duplicated through image editing alone.

Not all exposures of a given scene are necessarily desirable, or meet our aesthetic criteria, but we don’t really know until we actually witness the possibilities.

We expose ourselves to the possibilities by exposing our camera to the unexpected. And in the process, we learn to see how our camera sees, and embrace the unexpected.

IMAGE : The Ahwahnee, Yosemite, CA

  • Mouse over the image above to view the scene from an average exposure. If mouse over does not work, go to Why Bracketing? on my blog.

The longest exposure, or should I say the most over exposed shot from my bracketing session, produced a high key image. Lens flare haze contributed to the strong sense of light, giving the scene a more evocative look than an average exposure.

Most of my nighttime images are low key in nature. I chose the high key interpretation, over the less exposed renditions, to portray the setting in saturated light. This bathed the scene with a softer, more romantic atmosphere.

This high key image is the result of bracketing then selecting the 2 minute exposure shot at f8 with TMAX 3200 film. The average image is a blend of 15, 30 and 60 second exposures.

IMAGE TINT : GalleryCoolGray

The cool tint was chosen to convey the sense of light infusing the cold winter night.

This B&W image was tinted in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GalleryCoolGray” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Why Bracketing?

Find a night scene with a full range of highlights and shadows. Perform a bracketing session making sure you capture plenty of under and over exposed images.

Afterwards identify the exposure that matches what you observed at the scene. Compare this to the less and more exposed images to see if any of the “unrealistic” versions have a stronger impact on you than the expected shot.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Why Bracketing?

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Inspirational Light”

 


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