Sunday, December 6, 2009

Assignment 2: Glass

For this group of images for assignment 2 I had to pull together a number of different materials:

  • First of all different types of coloured glass - comprising bottles, marbles, candle holders, and essentially anything with strong primary colour.
  • Secondly light sources that would enable me to properly illuminate the compositions.  Flash was not going to work for this activity as I would need very careful control over positioning and shadow, something only a constant light source could provide.  I obtained a couple of LED spot lights on articulated arms from IKEA. These provided a very white light and enabled very precise positioning.  Otherwise I also used tea candles providing a soft yellow light.
To take the images I mounted my camera on a vertical arm directly attached to my work bench.  On the arm was mounted a very precise tripod head to which I also attached a macro rail to allow forward and backwards movement of the camera.  To the back of the bench I fixed a vertical sheet of plywood and then draped a sheet of black felt over it and a box in the middle of the bench.  This allowed me to place the lights directly behind the glass objects and also at a lower level.  This is illustrated in the photo below

I also wanted to shoot light passing through large globes of coloured glass, this created another challenge, containing the objects and preventing them from rolling away.  To achieve this I placed them in a shallow Tupperware box and shone the light through the transparent plastic.  This required the following set up, with the light directly under the subjects

I linked the camera directly to my computer and set up to be able to shoot directly from the desktop using live view to compose the photos.  This was very valuable for two reasons.  First of all precise framing of a still life is very much easier looking at the image on a 24" monitor, and secondly the exposures were going to be long and mostly manually controlled.  By downloading each shot as it is taken to the computer I am able to adjust exposure and composition as I go.  Finally I used a 100mm Macro lens for all of the shots.  In all I created around 100 images.

The challenges in creating images primarily rested on controlling the light sources, especially when overlapping glass was used, frequently the colours became very muddy.  Another issue was that many colours that looked great on the shelf of a shop in strong light took on a very poor colour caste when lit for shooting - the following is a good example - the green has a very sickly colour - the orange is fine - this would have been contrasting colours:

Another issue was deciding how much of the frame to fill with the glass.  In the following shot I have tried to add some negative space, however, I find this distracts from the colour and elected to fill the frame in each of the images.

Another failed experiment was to try and shine light through the glass to create patterns on a white sheet of paper, the colours were too weak and it was hard to control the composition.  I did, however, see potential in this technique and would be interested to return to it at some stage

However, after some practice I managed to create a variety of images that met the contrast criteria

Complementary Colours

I prefer the first of these two images, the detail in the green glass adds some structure to the image without dominating.

Similar Colours

For these images I switched to candle light and used a selection of yellow, orange, and red tea candle holders

In these three images I progressively reduced the number of candles and increased the symmetry of the composition.  The final image is my selection I prefer the simplicity and the symmetry, but also plan to use an image of multiple candles elsewhere in my submission.

Contrasting Colours

My first attempt was to use coloured marbles and spheres in red and blue, however, I could not find an angle where sufficient light shone through, but at the same time did not bring the white Tupperware into view.  I think the problem is that the red and blue glass is too absorptive.  I will return to this below in the colour accent.  This was the best I could achieve

I went back to using a blue bottle and red oil lamp:

The question here was consistently where to place the focus point and what degree if overlap to use.  My preference is for the first image, I like the way the curve of the red lamp arcs through the image.

Colour Accent

Finally for colour accent I carefully set up a composition of green glass spheres and added a couple of small yellow spheres.  A low camera angle kept the white plastic of of view - the question was then of where to place the focal point and what depth of field to use

Finally putting them together I got the following quartet

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