Shooting was completed in three separate sessions, all of them outdoors at night. Lighting was provided by the ambient (a combination of artificial and natural moon light) and an electronic flash strobe mounted on a light stand capable of being raised to about 2 meters. Three light modifiers were used: a conical snoot, some 30cm long with a front opening of about 1 cm, a cylindrical snoot some 23 cm long (both of which were hand-made with black card board) and a yellow colour gel filter for the flash (only used in one of the three sessions). I used two different cameras for this assignment (one of them weather resistant because it was used under sleet), but both of them were equipped with 41 ~ 43mm equivalent lenses.
All photographs were taken in my garden and in the driveway in front of my house. The idea was to identify items that I would pass on a daily basis and then try to photograph them under strong flash light to see if they could be made to look differently. A total of 173 photographs were taken during the three days, of which 12 shoots were pre-selected and a final of 7 photographs were chosen for final submission on the basis of their consistency of look. The annotated contact sheets can be found here.
The photographs were only adjusted for light (black / white point and shadows), noise reduction/sharpening, vignetting and cropping. It was necessary to colour correct a couple of photographs that were taken with the yellow filter gel on the flash (more on this below).
The final 7 photographs are shown below, together with a brief discussion of the shooting set-up
The first photograph is of a small weed plant growing next to a pond. The flash was set with the cylindrical snoot about 1 meter above the floor level and some 2 meters in front of the subject. Shutter speed was set low in order to allow in as much ambient light as possible, but the floor in front (the plant is on a step) was rendered pitch black. There are still some details on the periphery, some of which were darkened down slightly in post-processing with a vignette. Schematics are shown to the right.
In this photograph, I tried to highlight the end of a tree branch. The flash was set again with the cylindrical snoot at a height of about 2 meters and pointed directly at the relevant branch. The exposure was set so that the ambient light, coming from street lamps shining at a distance, would illuminate the background clearly. Schematics are shown to the right.
This image of an old shed door was taken with the flash pointing downwards from its stand at about 2 meters high. The flash had a cylindrical snoot on, and a yellow gel filter, which gave a warm tone to the light (later brought back slightly to balance it with the slightly cooler ambient light). The light was placed in front of a small pine tree that grows next to the shed, with the tree branches blocking and modeling the light in some areas. The flash was moved slightly over several shots to ensure that the door handle was fully lit. Schematics are shown on the right.
The image of this abandoned football (left by the previous tenants and never disposed of) was taken with the flash at about 1m height over the ground and some 1.5 meters away. The flash had a cylindrical snoot on and was feathered towards the brick wall, thus minimising the highlights in the shiny ball surface. The ball is naturally yellow and the flash was equipped with a yellow gel filter which gave a slightly warm tone to the light (it was later balanced back in post processing to bring it closer to the cooler ambient light). Schematics are shown on the right.
The next image of a dead shrub was taken under sleet, which can be seen falling against the dark background at the top. The flash was set at about 0.5 meters high and some 0.75m away from the subject, with the head covered with a cylindrical snoot and “feathered” slightly to the front and up, so that only the top of the shrub was illuminated, with the ground below only being hinted by the effect of the ambient light (mostly from street lamps). The camera was set almost from the top. Schematics are shown to the right.
In this photograph of a wild shrub growing in my driveway there is almost no impact from the ambient light but the reflections from the flash provide some background texture. On this occasion, the flash, with a cylindrical snoot on, was set about 30cm directly above the shrub, while the camera was shooting from the front. Schematics are shown on the right.
The last image selected was of a plastic bag in the middle of the garden. The flash was set just 15cm above the ground level and its light was modified by a cylindrical snoot. It was placed less than a meter away from the subject and iso was set relatively low because I wanted to minimize the details away from the beam of the flash, providing a faint sense of directionality. Schematics are shown to the right