Monday, 6 June 2011

Exercise 18: How space changes with light

I find this a particularly interesting exercise with far more aspects than the text suggests so i think I may be coming back to it several times.

As a first pass I going to take the instructions at face value with a series of shots of one of the hotels I regularly visit on business, the Tortworth Court, near Wotton-under-Edge.

This is clearly a very imposing building, and is probably going to look so irrespective of the lighting. However, this first shot at 08:00 on an overcast summer morning does it’s best to make the building look dull. I tried lifting it with some fill light slider in Lightroom, but that simply reduced the contrast, and I also tried a couple of HDR–effect presets but they also offered little improvement. In as much as it has any effect the sun is behind me to the right.

Tortworth Court 18:2

In this next shot, taken about 12 hours later at 19:45 the same day, the sun has moved around behind the building, although the sky is still largely overcast. Rather than try for a silhouette I have chosen to lift the building and pull the sky back to give a semi-HDR effect. Although the light on the building is again very flat it is considerably more interesting than the first shot, with perhaps a sense of foreboding to it. In both these shots the colour temperature of the light does the stonework no justice at all.

Tortworth 18:3

The next shot shows how sunlight brings the scene to life – this one taken the next day at 07:30, and overexposed by 1 stop relative to the recommended exposure.

Tortworth 18:4

The low and bright sun has started to show some relief detail on the main building, the heavy shade cast by the trees to my right have dulled down the entrance gate so that it appears part of the main building, and the same shade sets off the small tree in the foreground quite dramatically. The morning light also compliments the colour of the stonework. This is my favourite shot from this series as captures the feel of the hotel very well. Just an hour and a half later later, at 09:10 the shot starts to have a different feel.

Tortworth 18:5

The shadows have shortened noticeably, and moved so that they no longer set off the small tree. The changed lighting angle has also reduced the apparent relief relief in the stonework. The gate is now more prominent, but perhaps rather dominant. Finally, the colours are also less saturated. All this adds up to a rather less engaging picture in spite of the continued drama of the hotel itself.

By way of complete contrast here is the same shot at night. Dracula anyone? The floodlighting nicely highlights the buildings texture and detail, the foreground is softened (slightly) by the street light falling on the tree and the colours are un-natural but warm. Without the tree this could have been taken in virtually any season of the year

Tortworth Court 18:1 


I will have plenty more opportunities for shots of this location and as I have used a road marking to locate the camera position I would expect to be able to repeat the view so I will be revisiting this, and hopefully adding some shots from the middle of the day.

I will also be looking at the effect of light on a rather more modern building – although these are in somewhat short supply in rural Cumbria – and I have some thought about carrying out the exercise in a hopefully more creative way.

Exercise Update  - 02 July 2011

Overcast seems to be the order of the day this summer as this next shot taken at about 10:20 in the morning shows:

Tortworth 18:8

The loss of sunlight compared with the two shots above makes this a considerably less attractive photo, but it is a definite improvement over the first shot. This is in part because the clouds and sky are more interesting, and also perhaps because the sun is higher so more light is filtering through the clouds. For comparison, here is the same shot at 17:14:

Tortworth 18:7

Even in these relatively overcast conditions the deadening effect of the sun moving behind the building is clear.

Overall conclusions

In truth, in this series of shots it is not always easy to distinguish between the effect of different times of day and the effect of weather conditions. It is most marked in the two sunlit shots – and of course the night-time shot – although while the building is floodlit there will be little change with time.

Given an intermittently cloudy sky the shots look better with front lighting. Unfortunately I get few opportunities to photograph this building during the middle of the day, when the sun would be coming from the left of the shot. If the opportunity arises I’ll post it here.

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