Night Portrait

The objective of this exercise is to produce 3 portraits of a subject that are taken at night. Various techniques are to be used such as high ISO (3200 and above), flash, long exposures and street lights.

Prior to undertaking the exercise we were asked to explore the work of Weegee. The link to his work given in the course material did not work but some of his work can be found elsewhere on the ICP website [Reference 1] and it is this that was used to explore his work.

There are a number of images that were taken at night or under low light conditions and I focussed on six in particular when preparing for this exercise.

The image of, what appears to be, two homeless men makes ue of the light from the fire in the trashcan to illuminate hands and faces as well as a small area around the figures.

The image of a person stood outside a waterfront building is interestingly lit as it highlights just that area with everything else in darkness. Just getting that particular part of the image lit must either have required a great deal of thought and planning, or some clever processing of the image in the darkroom to develop that particular part of the image correctly while overdeveloping the remainder of the image to hide details and darken it. Something the could be achieved using dodging and burning techniques.

The image of the crashed car being lifted is lit by available lights, such as those of the vehicle lifting it.

The image of a city lit by a lightning flash must have used a long exposure to catch the flash which has provided enough light to show details of waves on the water. The streaked appearance of some of the lights in the background would support this idea as if the photograph was taken at the moment the lightning flash occured all of the other lights would have been frozen too.

The image of a crowd outside a theatre or cinema with police crouched over a figure on the ground makes use of flash.

The image of the guy carrying what appears to be bagels makes use of a light source that just lights the subject leaving the background dark. Almost like painting with light.

After reviewing Weegee’s work I plan to try and use high ISO as well, flash and available light sources, for instance street lighting.

 


This proved to be a challenging exercise for me personally for a number of reasons, but the main one being able to get someone to act as model so that I could take photos at night.

In order to progress the exercise I decided that I would work on taking photos using different techniques and not worry about having a person in the photographs.

The images that I ended up with cover High ISO, available light sources, flash and long exposures.

Exercise 2.9 - A Night Portrait - Ukelele Player Cropped-5459
Ukelele Player – High ISO – Taken during evening entertainment at Gunton Hall, Lowestoft

This picture benefited from a tight crop. The full image shows audience members, including some that are standing just to the right of where the image ends. The problem with high ISO is that the higher you push it the more noise that begins to be noticeable.

In order to take this photograph I had to push the ISO as far as I dared in order to get the exposure as right as I could in camera.

Exercise 2.9 - A Night Portrait-5528 - Fireworks
Fireworks Display – Availble Light Source – Gunton Hall, Lowestoft

Available light sources can be useful when taking a portrait at night. Although there isn’t actual person in this photograph, it would have been possible to have taken a photograph of a person using the light from the fireworks as they exploded. Admittedly this would have meant taken a large number of photographs in order to get a selection that could be worked with.

Exercise 2.9 - A Night Portrait -5700 - Bear and Elf - Flash
Barnby and Elf friend (on a raised gravel bed, most definitely not on a shelf) – Ring Flash

In December I bought a ring flash and the above photograph was taken using it. Adjusting the power levels, changing position in relation to, and distance from, the subject results in different effects.


 

Exercise 2.9 - A Night Portrait - Barnaby and Elf Cropped-5711
Barnaby and Elf friend (on a plank) – Long Exposure

I’ve included the photograph above, not as part of the exercise but because it was taken using a long exposure and has been cropped to remove part of the raised gravel bed that was intruding into the left hand side of the image. I think the orange tinge to the photograph is partly due to the exposure time but also a result of light from a street lamp that is situated behind where the photo was taken. Light from the street lamp wasn’t able to illuminate the bear and elf directly as to the left of the photo, out of shot is a large plastic bin store that ensured that the area was in shadow. The street lamp is on a timer system, which results in it turning off for 30 seconds before slowly illuminating again.

After taking this photograph I took a few more photograph increasing and decreasing the exposure time by various amounts. After examining the effect I then took one last photograph but trying out the techique we have to use for assignment two. The experience was useful as I found out that the snoot I was using needs to be refined somewhat because as it is at the moment it bathes the entire area in light. A good thing to know before I embark on the assignment.


Despite this being a challenge to complete I can see that some of these techniques could lead to some really interesting photographs if with a bit of planning.

The fireworks would certainly have provided an interesting backdrop to a portrait of someone, a couple in a romantic pose for instance (despite the possibility it might seem a bit cliched).

A portrait taken using a long exposure would have it’s own challenges, getting the subject to sit still long enough to capture the image. Something that our predecessors from the early days of photography would appreciate. I’m not sure I’m going to find many takers willing to have their head clamped so that I can taken their photo at night, though.

Contact Sheets

The following are all the images that I took as part of this exercise. Included are some other high ISO images that I took at a burlesque show in April 2017.

Selected Photos-1

Selected Photos-2

Selected Photos-3

Selected Photos-4

Selected Photos-5

References

  1. International Center of Photography. Weegee Archive, Selections. Available at: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/collections/weegee-archive-selections Accessed: 28th October 2017.

People in light

The objective of this exercise was to take a series of photographs of the same person in different kinds of light over several days. The final selection of photographs were to be presented in a grid.

For this exercise I drafted in my partner because I knew that I’d have more opportunities to take her photograph on a number of occasions.

While completing this exercise I decided to make use of the Lensbaby 3G lens I’ve just bought. The lens is designed to have a sweet spot that you use for the main subject of the photograph, it is then possible to soften the focus in the remainder of the image in-camera with no need to apply similar effects during post-processing.

The photographs were taken over a period of about four days with some being taken indoors while others were taken outside. The outdoor shots utilised both days with cloud cover as well as bright sunshine. The indoor shots were taken using normal house lighting, flourescent lighting in a restaurant and also indoors with sunlight backlighting the subject.

The final selection of nine images and the contact sheets are shown below.


 


Selected Photos-1Selected Photos-2Selected Photos-3Selected Photos-4Selected Photos-5

The Conversation

The following picture analysis is of Michael Buhler-Rose image The Conversation from his project Constructing the Exotic.

The image can be found here (https://www.harvardartmuseums.org/art/337318).


Question 1

Write a visual description of the photograph above (see links) using short phrases and descriptive words. The four key elements you should descibe are:

Facial expression, posture and gesture, clothing, location

A group of women sit and stand outside a building in a wooded area. A group of four women are on the left of the image. Three of the group are sitting, one if standing with arms folded across her chest. One of the women sitting is talking to the others, she is gesturing with her left arm.  The faces of the others in the group show rapt attention.

On the right of the image are another three women. One is sitting on a set of steps leading into the building. She is leaning back against the steps, left arm resting on the step, right arm across her body, with the hand resting on her left hand. Her eyes are looking towards the woman on her left who is standing with legs slightly apart, hands on hips. The final women in this group is stood at the top of the steps, legs together, head slightly tilted as if listening, arms out to the sides, hands resting on the bannisters either side of the steps.

Each woman’s hair is pulled tightly back into a bun. Their hair is adorned with jewellery and flowers.

The women are dressed in sarees, hinting that they are from India. The ethnicity of the woman on the steps seems to back this up. However, the other women, appear to be of a  more Causasion extraction.

Question 2

What do you associate the women’s dress with? Are you making any other associations?

I would associate the women’s dress with the style of clothes worn by someone from India, or who has an Indian heritage, but does not live in India.

The building and the plants surrounding it I associate with a more Western country such as the U.S.A.

Question 3

You may be confused by the photograph because it throws up visual signs that appear to be ‘in the wrong place’. Can you pare down this photography to a series of signs? For example, where do the women look like they originate from? What does their costume, jewellery and make-up say? What about the building in the background? Does it looks like it comes from the same place?

On the basis of the costumes, jewellery and make-up, the women appear to be from India. However, the Caucasion appearance of the majority of the women suggests that they come from a different country.

The building in the background looks like it belongs in a Western country such as the U.S.A or United Kingdom. The grass and plants throughout the image are those I would associate with those countries and not India.

The plant pots on one of the windowsill, the planters on the ground and the bird feeder behind the group of women on the left of the image are also somewhere I would expect to see in the UK or U.S.A.

The building also has a temporary feel to it. It looks like a porta-cabin. Equally it could be something of a more permanent nature but designed for someone that doesn’t have the resources to buy something more substantial. The greenery surrounding the building gives the impression of somewhere that is of a more permanent nature.

Question 4

Does this photograph seem posed to you? Perhaps it is reminiscent of images by nineteenth-century photographers like Henry Peach Robinson or of painters like Raphael.

The photograph does seem posed. The placement of the group of women, the poses of the women to the right of the image. It is reminiscent of Henry Peach Robinson and composite photograph ‘Fading Away’ as well as many more including ‘Gossip on the Beach’.

The bright colours worn by the women make them stand out from their environment. This is remininscent of Raphael because of the colours he uses in some of his paintings when depicting women.

Question 5

The photograph is from a series called Contructing the Exotic. How does this title resonate with the photograph?

The title of the series definitely resonates with the photograph. The women within the image are wearing outfits that aren’t normally associated with the United Kingdom, not everyday outfits at least. Before the early twentieth century, outfits like these would certainly have seemed exotic. Even now outfits like these could seem exotic when worn under the right cricumstances, for instance by belly dancers.

The staged feel to the photograph also resonates with the title of the series showing that these the image is not a natural one and has been put together in some way.

Question 6

Do the women look contemporary? What do you make of their poses?

The women’s poses are relaxed. Their body language is for the most part open, although the body language of the woman standing at the left of the image is closed because of the folded arm.

The group to the left appear to be listening intently to what the one is saying.

The women do have a contemporary look which I feel is given by the make-up they are wearing. The setting also lends to this contemporary air. A setting that was more in keeping with the outfits would have given a much older feel as if you were looking at a group of women from nineteenth centure India.



The whole series can be seen at www.michaelbuhlerrose.com.