Reading the brief for this project, I felt like I’d done it twice before – Art of Photography & Landscape – the difference being that this is potentially about internal space rather than an external situation. I had thought that I would use a room in our home where the light changes significantly as the day goes by but, whilst on holiday, decided to shoot images of a room in the house where we were staying, looking at it in two very different forms of light – the morning sun and the internal tungsten lights of the evening. Following the theme of the previous post, I didn’t try to photograph the whole room or even a significant proportion of it in any specific image but to select five compositions, which I then repeated in the two different forms of lighting to get my comparative images (though I did two versions of ‘evening’ for one of the shots.
The first composition looks into a corner of the room that is potentially lit from two large window spaces – one in the frame, behind the chair, and the other off camera to the left. I say ‘potentially lit’ because the window that actually appears in the frame is actually quite shaded by a tree and the walls of other buildings, so actually provides very little light on the scene. These are the two images.
Both present photographic challenges with contrast, the first because of the bright patch of sunlight on the floor in the foreground and the second because the light source is in the frame. The first is actually lit from the window that is out of frame to the left, with the sun creating sharp highlights on the surface of the leather chair. The comparative outcome of the images is quite interesting in that I first considered using the room for this project because of the attractive light in this corner in the morning sun, but in the end, it is the tungsten-lit image for this composition that comes out most effectively – to my mind. Even though a large part of the chair is in deep shadow because it is a dark colour and back-lit, the contrast between the soft orange tungsten light and the blue cast of the evening shade outside in the garden works better than the harsher and less evenly sunlit first image. Shooting this corner in the daytime would probably work more effectively if done in a more consistent afternoon light, when the sun is no longer coming directly through the window, or when there is no bright sunlight. (Would that I could back to Carcassonne to try it!)
The next composition moves 90 degrees to the right. The sunlight doesn’t reach across the room to this wall, so the daylight image is lit in a consistent manner with none of the sharp contrasts of the previous framing.
I think one of the characteristics of these selective, ‘incomplete’ framings that I have been trying is balance – or at least an attempt at balance – and this image hopefully demonstrates that. Yes, the pot in the alcove is probably the immediate attraction, but so is half a clock, part of a red brick fireplace, a sofa arm and some CDs propped against the side of the fireplace. I don’t necessarily want any one thing to dominate. With the soft, even, natural daylight, the lighting helps to achieve that result, but because the alcove has a concealed light that is the main source in the second image, it is the alcove and pot that dominates the frame. It still makes for an interesting image, but it doesn’t deliver the same balanced result as the first.
The next composition turns a further 45 degrees to the right, and there are 3 versions.
Once again, my own preference is for the soft, even natural light in the first version, shot in the morning. As in the previous composition, the brightly lit alcove is interesting in the middle version, but it dominates and looks unnatural (and is difficult to expose for, of course). I switched off that light and went for a longer exposure, lit by other tungsten lighting to the right, but it creates odd shadows. I used the ‘open door’ technique to suggest things ‘off frame’.
Moving to another corner of the room, I selected this framing.
Once again, the change of lighting has a marked effect on the way the eye interprets the image. In the left hand version, where there is natural light entering from the right of the frame, from a glass doorway in the other room, the eye is drawn out of the frame in that direction, particularly with the pan hanging on the wall and the radiator. Whilst the same is true to some extent in the second image, that effect is balanced by the bright wall light, which increases the ‘pull’ of the left half of the composition. Oddly, that seems to me to create a slight sense of menace from the right side of that second image – perhaps because the light is obviously less natural.
The final composition looks back across the room, towards the doorway that features in the one above, which leads into a kitchen. Now, the balance is more even in the daylight image, with a reasonable it between the strength of the cupboard in the foreground and the kitchen area framed by the doorway. The eye moves to the kitchen, but it is aware of the furniture in the room as well. In the second, the brightly lit kitchen is the dominant area by some way, and that is where the eye goes immediately.
So, conclusion – not surprisingly, that the position and nature of the light entering a space will significantly affect the balance of an image and could lead to quite different decisions about where to position the camera and what composition to choose, depending on one’s intentions with the image. Further subtle differences could also have been achieved in different forms of natural light at different times of the day and, as illustrated with the third composition above, by the choice of which artificial lighting to use and where to position it.