Category Archives: Reflections

I passed my formal assessment!

512659 S Mullins PH1AOP Marksheet512659 S Mullins PH1AOP Letter

I passed my formal assessment; but I was a little disappointed at some of the comments regarding the standard of my presentation, as I felt that I did not get sufficient guidance as to what was expected of me.  However, I have recently found a student Forum on Facebook that assures me that this is typical for the first course and that passing was good in itself.  I will however, take on board the colleges criticisms as  for learning and en-devour to improve in my next course.

Reflections of a narrative picture essay


This essay was compiled from photographs I took with my wife during our holiday in Spain this year.

A fish supper (1 of 1)

Inspired by the photo I took of Sarah posing in one of those tourist photo screens for a bit of fun.  This image came about when we were walking to the port for lunch and Sarah asked me to take her photo as we walked past it.  It was whilst continuing along to the restaurant that I had the idea of the fish diner becoming the fish dinner.

IMG_0732  IMG_0355


The first image of Sarah sticking her tongue out at the ocean was planned however, the second image that perfectly juxtaposes the first was taken purely by chance when Sarah threw out her tongue at me when I tried to take a photo of her when we were watching a circus performance whilst on the same holiday.  The later image was taken earlier, on the same holiday before the idea of this narrative had occurred to me and I took the photo on a small point and shoot camera; briefly looking at the back of the camera I liked the blurred affect and decided to keep it.  If I had deleted this image due to it’s poor quality I would have lost a great image.


The motion-blur, red illumination and eye-line implies a look of fear and action, combined with the other picture we see a suggestion of a sudden change from a place of arrogance to a place of horror.  The picture that inspired this narrative is of course the punch-line to pictorial joke.



Good books for lighting

Light Science & Magic, Fourth Edition, by: Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, Paul Fuqua. Published by Focal Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

Basics Photography 07, Exposure. By David Prakal. Published by AVA academia.

Basics Photography 02, Light. By David Prakel. Published by AVA academia.

Digital Portrait Photography and Lighting. By Catherine Jamieson, Sean McCormick. Published by Wiley Publishing Inc. ISBN: 0-471-78128-2.

Direction & Quality of Light. By Neil Van Niekerk. Published by Amhurst Media. ISBN: 13: 978-1608955701

White on white

I gave myself a little challenge to take a challenging image of a white subject against a white background.
Following the steps outlined in Light Science & Magic by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver and Paul Faqua, published by Focal Press.

White on white-resized

I used a Nikon SB910 speedlight inside a soft-box fitted to a tripod that straddled the set. The speedlight was controlled by a Pocket Wizard for off camera remote control. A black card was placed to the left of the subject to help with modelling, a black gobo was suspended above the subject to create a shadow on the top of the head and prevent a highlight from forming and obscuring the top detail. A reflector was also employed as a fill light to soften shadows on and below the face. I used a handheld light meter to take an incident reading and stopped down from f/22 as recommended by the light meter to f/19 to obtain a nice white background instead of an 18% grey background.

I have only sharpened and converted to black and white in lightroom without any adjustments to contrast, tones, or exposure, etc.

Set (1 of 1)

Using diffuse reflection and shadow to reveal texture

In this exercise, I have taken two photos of a garden glove to try to illustrate the difference between ‘flat lighting’ and ‘raked lighting’ the first image was taken with the speedlight fitted to the camera and produces a flat light that doesn’t really show off the glove at it’s best by revealing much texture or providing much of an illusion of a three dimensional object.
Small_light_at_high_angle_making_flat_light_very_little_texture_effect (1 of 1)

This second photo was taken with the speedlight moved off camera and set at a low angle to rake the glove with light in order to bring out the texture by creating tiny highlights and shadows in the material and producing shadows to help give it a three dimensional appearance.
Small_light_at_low_angle_making_raked_light_for_texture (1 of 1)

Light, Science & Magic, 4th edition. By Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, Paul Fuqua.
Published by Focal Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

When spending a long weekend in Liverpool for the Aintree, Grand National, I visited the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
Amongst the many paintings, sculptures and photographs, I was particularly drawn to three paintings that used colour or light to great effect.

“Amity” by Bernard Fleetwood-Walker. 1933.
Girl in pastel blue dress with pastel green cardigan and red shoes holding a Dandelion, boy in white shirt, grey trousers and navy hat in hand. The two teenagers are on a hill, pick-nicking; there is a suggestion of sexual tension as the boy regards the flower and maybe also her chest, whilst the girl is looking away with one foot half way out of the shoe.

I liked this picture for the subtle use of complementary colours, the cleaver pose of the two models and the contrasting red shoes providing a possible narrative to the image presented to the viewer.

“Orpheus and Eurydice” by George Frederick Watts.
In Greek Mythology, Orpheus is said to have invented music and was a favourite of the Gods. He met and fell in love with Eurydice the most beautiful women in the world, who tragically dies and descends to the house of Hyades the underworld for the dead. However, the Gods take pity on Orpheus and allows him to enter Hyades to bring his wife back from the dead, on the condition that he does not look upon her beautiful face until they return to the world of the living. This painting illustrates the moment just after Orpheus has succumbed to temptation and looked upon his wife’s face before reaching the surface and she has fallen back into his arms dead.

I liked the use of light and shade in this composition. Eurydice’s face is hidden in shadow; so illustrating Orpheus’ lose of both her soul and beauty. A hard light source is used to illuminate Orpheus and cast a hard shadow across Eurydice’s face to represent death. Very little use of colour, this image relies on light and shade only.

Whilst admiring some 20th centaury painters, I noted that James Hamilton was influenced by Whistler’s thoughts that colour was like music tones and can make harmony.

Distance of light

The distance the light source has to the subject will effect the type of light you get on the subject.

The further away the light is from the subject the smaller the light size becomes and the harder the light becomes. A soft-box at a greater distance from the subject will act like a small hard light, creating harder shadows and direct reflections, this is due to the limited family of angles.

The closer the light source is to the subject the softer the light becomes, producing softer shadows and diffused reflection as the light source appears larger due to the proximity. At a closer proximity the light has more angles to strike the subject; so the effect is the same as a larger light.

Light, Science & Magic, 4th edition. By Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, Paul Fuqua.
Published by Focal Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

Further reading:
Basics Photography 02 Lighting. By David Prakel. Published by AVA Publishing.

The size of light

The size of the light source will affect the type of light the camera sees.
A large light.
A large light creates ‘soft lighting’ that produces soft shadows and diffused reflection. This can be created using a soft-box, umbrellas, bounced light off a ceiling or wall or an overcast sky.
Soft_light (1 of 1)

Small light.
A small light source produces a hard light that produces hard shadows that is identified by their sharply definable edges.
This can be produced by a naked flash or strobe that is fairly close to the subject or the direct illumination from the sun in a clear sky. Hard light will also create direct reflection.
Hard_light (1 of 1)

Light, Science & Magic, 4th edition. By Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, Paul Fuqua.
Published by Focal Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

Further reading:
Basics Photography 02 Lighting. By David Prakel. Published by AVA Publishing.

Polarized or un-polarized reflection?

Polarized and un-polarized reflection are very similar in appearance and although polarized reflection is less bright than it’s source this can be to difficult to tell it is mixed with other reflective blight such as diffuse reflection. Clues that can suggest polarized reflection can be deduced from the material the light is reflected from, for example:

Materials that conduct electricity typically have surfaces that produce un-polarized reflection.

Shiny non-conductive materials such as glass, plastic and ceramics will typically produce polarized reflection.

If the surface is like a mirror, such as bright metal like chrome, the refection is likely to be un-polarized.

If the shiny surface is nor mirror like such as that of shiny wood or leather then it is more likely to be polarized – the reflection is more likely to be polarized if the camera is seeing the reflection at an angle of 40-50 degrees (dependant on the type of surface). At other angles the reflection is likely to be un-polarized direct reflection.

The conclusive test is to observe the reflection through a polarize filter.

Light, Science & Magic, 4th edition. By Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, Paul Fuqua.
Published by Focal Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

Polarized direct reflection

Direct reflected light that has been polarized is similar to un-polarized reflection in that it reflects off a surface at the same angle as it strikes so that to view the reflection you have to be in line with the angle of reflection or in other words within the family of angels. However, polarized light reflects less brightly than direct reflection, pure reflected un-polarized light if half as intense as the original light source. Normally un-polarized light is more than half as a result of some light absorbing qualities found in many materials.

What is polarized light?
Returning to what light is, light is a photon with the electromagnetic field fluctuating around it.
Un-polarized light
This electromagnetic field can be visualized with two children holding a skipping rope, the rope representing the electromagnetic field fluctuating from positive through zero to negative through zero to positive. One child swing her end of the rope whilst the other child holds her end still, this produces a visual picture.

Polarized light.
To polarize the light, imagine that the children are now standing on either side of a picket fence with the rope between them as the child swing the rope on one side of the fence, the child on the other side who holds the rope still, finds her end of the rope in bouncing up and down instead of swinging. We now have a visual image of polarized light.

Blocking polarized light.
Now to see a visual representation of a filter at work blocking polarized light, we simply add horizontal bars across the picket fence and threat the rope though a gap between two vertical pickets and two horizontal bars. One child again swings the rope from her side of the fence whilst the other child simply hold the rope still.
The child simply the rope now sees that her side of the rope doesn’t move at all.
This is blocked polarized light and is therefore invisible to the eye or camera.

A large body of water such as a lake, painted metal, glossy wood and plastic are typical sources of direct reflected polarized light.

Polarized direct reflection is most easily seen in black or transparent objects as they do not produce strong reflected light but weaker diffused light instead.

Taken from the book:
Light, Science & Magic, 4th edition. By Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, Paul Fuqua.
Published by Focal Press, Taylor & Francis Group.