Aimlessly Pontificating on Photography

Posts tagged “light

The making of . . .

Apple Exposed

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This is one of the very early images in my project this year to take a photo every day for the year.

It was taken on 17th February this year while I was sojourning in Canada.

Only a month and a half into the project I was lost for inspiration with the scenery around me. It was the middle of winter in suburban Canada and I had no one to take me to any of the interesting places.

There was good and bad in that situation, I wasn’t guaranteed a good picture, but I was forced to step outside my comfort zone.

The setup for this shot should have been fairly simple, but to compose it I needed a tripod ideally, as this is a long exposure. Didn’t have one so my big heavy DSLR with a big heavy 105mm macro lens attached had to sit precariously on a plastic storage container with the lens cap under the lens to keep the camera level.

I had seen an article, I can’t now recall where, on a portrait photographer who took long exposure photographs of her subjects in total darkness, while selectively lighting them with a handheld flashgun triggered manually. Her photos were very interesting so this is what I wanted to try (except without a breathing subject to annoy).

I placed my camera to compose the image, set it in manual mode, stopped down to give me the maximum exposure length without going into bulb mode (shutter remains open until you determine it should be closed). It was evening, but not night, so there was still a degree of ambient light and lots of clutter in the background. Stopping down radically to f/20 also helped obscure the background clutter. So the settings were, manual exposure mode, f/20 aperture and 30 seconds shutter speed. Manual flash, handheld, triggered via the “Test” button on the flash.

The reason for the long exposure is to have maximum control of the lighting via the flashgun. Unfortunately it is a trial and error process. I can’t remember now but I must have taken at least a dozen shots, fine tuning the exposure.

If you look at the apple, you will see three highlight spots, I didn’t manage to aim the flash at the same spot each of the three times I triggered it. This matters on a highly reflective surface like the apple, but may not matter as much if you are taking a photo of subjects that are not shiny and reflective. I also didn’t particularly care for the straight line of light cast by the flash in the foreground. Another flash exposure aimed at the counter in the foreground with the flash set at low power would have probably eased that harsh line.

After importing the images into Adobe Lightroom, I had to boost the black levels a bit to hide the background completely and fiddle a little with the exposure and contrast, not much was done.

The technique is a very intriguing one, but requires a fair bit of patience. While my image might not be great, it is sufficient to see that the technique has some merit and is worth some additional experimentation.

Origin of a name.

My blog has moved, see the new site at

It’s my birthday today, it seems appropriate that I would start something new. The name of this blog was inspired by a recent comment made by a professional photographer to a photo taken by one of my friends. He suggested that my friend might have been better served if he used the “correct” lens to take the photo.

I took umbrage at this (perhaps unfairly) because a good photo is a good photo, regardless of the method used in its creation. We have all these rules about what should be done and not done to create a “proper” image and I do think that it is critical to know and be intimately familiar with the rules, because it is only when you are than you can know when the rule book should be thrown out the window.

So why “Bad Light, Good Light”? Because it is recited as dogma that certain light is “bad” for photography and certain light is “good”. High noon is bad, sunrise/sunset is good. It is dogma. I read it somewhere sometime ago, where it was said that light can’t be bad or good, it is merely different. It was quite the revelation. I’ve never forgotten that, I used to recite the Bad Light, Good Light dogma myself, without a second thought.

The dogma is no different whether you are told that a particular lens is the “wrong” lens or the Rule of Thirds/Golden Section/Diagonal must be applied or Sports requires fast shutter speeds, and cetera.

I am certainly not suggesting that the “rules” be discarded, whatever they might be, but it seems unfortunate to assess a photograph first on the basis of whether the rules were followed and only in passing, whether it is a good photo or not.

In conclusion, may I present what I think is quite a good photo, taken in very “bad” light; late afternoon:

Bad Light