Sunday, September 27, 2009

Museum Visit: Egyptian Art Museum

Possibly not the most obvious source for inspiration to a Photography student, the Egyptian Art Museum was nevertheless an interesting destination for a budding photog.  This fairly small museum houses a good variety of sculpture and murals/wall carvings from a broad span of Egyptian history. Dating from around 5,000 to 2,000 years old the sculptures clearly show the development in the representation of the human form, from representative through to highly realistic.  Other than the simple pleasure of examining the work of artists from many years ago the museum's policy of photography, but no flash, presented a great opportunity to do some low light portrait work.  The fact that the subjects were totally unmoving was a definite advantage, although not being able to use any fill flash meant that shadows would be a potential problem. 

I have selected 6 shots to chronicle my visit to the museum.  Although these are off topic for the overall AoP course, my intent to visit a new gallery/museum each week is inspired by the course and intended to help me to develop ideas and subject matter.  I selected my 50mm f/1.2 for this series, the low aperture and great optics are well suited to the subject, although the lack of Image Stabilisation was going to require careful attention to shutter speed.  The key selling point of this lens, a maximum aperture of f/1.2, is also its achilles heal as the depth of field when wide open is wafer thin and without a tripod (not allowed in most muesuems)is very hard to manage.  Thus I rarely use the maximum aperture, but even f/2 is much better than my f/4 zooms.

The first 4 shots are a series of heads moving forward in time to illustrate how the presentation of the human form developed in realism.

50mm, 1/60s, f/2.8, ISO 800

50mm, 1/250s, f/2, ISO 800

50mm, 1/200s, f/2.8, ISO 400

50mm, 1/100s, f/2.8, ISO 400

The next image was my personal favorite piece in the museum, a huge lion head.  Unfortunately no matter what I did I could not eliminate the huge shadow cast by the nose At least not without significant amounts of Photoshop intervention), but I still like the image:

50mm, 1/100s, f/2.8, ISO 800

The final image is the most striking.  It is a gold leaf covered wooden face mask taken from a burial.  The lighting was very low and atmospheric to accentuate the colours and added a sense of mystery.  I experimented a little with this image, in the end opting for a -2 step underexposure to darken the background, but still allow the quality of the gold to come through.  With less exposure compensation the glare from the refelction on the face started to overpower the image

50mm, 1/640, f/2, ISO 800

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