Saturday, March 6, 2010

Assignment 4: Initial Workup

As with the other assignments on this course I have developed a number of different subjects in the lead up to submitting my final image set for assignment 4. Starting out my initial thought was to create a set of images using a Bronze statue of the Hindu god Ganesha, however, as time went on I have become more interested in using an organic subject.  Subsequently I have 4 sets of images, Ganesha, A Bird of Paradise Flower, Tulips, and a decorative Pineapple used by florists.

My lighting set up consists of 2 400J Elinchrom flash heads with a variety of light formers, such as soft boxes, umbrellas, and a snoot.  I also have a large reflector that I can place on a lighting stand.  Exposure is controlled with a flash meter, however, I have found that when I work in the studio with still life subjects I tether my camera to my computer and so have instant feedback fro exposure, making visual adjustment much easier.  I typically place one flash in a soft box to the left of my camera with a reflector on the right hand side of the subject.  This creates a two light solution and by adjusting the reflector I can manage the fill on the right hand side of the subject

I use the second flash to create a white background when needed.  I place the flash head inside a large soft box immediately behind the subject.  Using minimum power and slaving this gun to the primary, I can guarantee a pure white background by effectively blowing out the background.  Care must be taken as it is possible to create unpleasant lens artifacts.  For a black background I hang a large sheet of black felt on a bookcase immediately behind the subject.  So long as I position the lights to avoid directly illuminating the felt this works very well.

The rest is experimentation, although typically I follow the same basic rules:

Shape: To create the Shape images with a white image I ensure that the back light has a higher intensity than the front light and then over expose the image by 1 or 2 stops.  For the images with a black background I use a single light with a snoot over to the rear right of the subject.  This permits very selective back lighting of the subject.

Form:  Here I use a single light with a reflector, adjusting the reflector for different degrees of fill.  Then if I want a white background I sue the second light, but at a much lower intensity than the primary.  I could use both lights, but I like to have the option of the using my second light as a back light.  The answer is to get another light, but I do not have a huge amount of space.

Texture:  The lighting set up for these images is similar to form, except that the lighting angle becomes very important, as I want to create hard edged shadows to emphasize the texture.  For this I will use a Snoot rather than soft box to create a very hard edged light.  

Colour:  Here I found that the key was to create soft even light and then work with the camera exposure to bring rich colour, underexposing by up to a stop can help.

Lens choice was fairly simple, I wanted fine control and the ability to get in close, so have used either a 100mm or 180mm Macro.  Most of the images are shot with fairly narrow apertures, however, for some shots I wanted to use a wider aperture up to f/2.8.  This was an issue as even the minimum settings on a pair of 400J flash guns in a small room creates a lot of light.  I had to use ND filters to reduce the amount of light entering the camera.

In the next 4 blog entries I will present 4 pairs of images, each highlighting one of the qualities required. The outstanding question will be which set of images to submit for my assignment.

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