Light Properties – Direction

Photography means to draw with light.  Learning the properties of light is easy, there are only four: Intensity, Color, Quality and Direction. Understanding their use and consequence is a large part of the difference between a camera owner and a photographer.

Of the four properties of light, Direction has (I think) the biggest influence on our visual perception.  Billions of selfies with on camera flash blasting away are featureless and flat.  Move the flash off camera, place it low and we get the “Monster”, as every kid with a flashlight has done.  Move the light high and to the side and you’re emulating Rembrandt and his window.  Light directly from the side and you have an iconic Beatles album cover.

Irises have replaced Azaleas on this cloudy-rainy-sunny-cloudy Sunday.  A surprise because my real boss made me divide and replant them and they still bloomed. I confess to finding Iris blossoms real lookers – shape, color, texture – they have it all.  Their rich colors almost demand the drama of low key lighting scheme.

So I chose to ignore light Intensity, Color and Quality and photograph them with variations in Direction.  I eliminated Intensity variations (ambient daylight) with a manual exposure at least 3 stops low.  I eliminated Color variations ( ambient daylight) with a one light at 5600K.  I eliminated Quality variations ( hard or soft) by using a bare speed light with 16 degree grid for a hard point source.  My only variable would be direction.

1. Top Light:   Top lit, the direction we are used to seeing in our sunlit world.  I held the flash up and about 45 degrees to camera right.  The direction gives us shadows which give us modelling and sense of volume, not flat like a selfie or on camera flash that is straight on.  Since the only light recorded was from the flash,   the Grid plus Inverse Square Law prevented reflected light from the background being recorded so we get a dark background and high contrast ratio with the rich color and shape of the Iris. The high luminance or bright front parts come forward as robust with lots of volume.  Flash & grid, high and front, camera right. F16, 1/160, ISO 80.

2 Sunday Irises2. Rim Light:   Moved the flash further behind the blossom. Impact shifts to the center and the exterior volume is deemphasized.  The Iris appears less dense and more ephemeral. We can see the delicate veins in the petals and the attached spider silk.  The character of the flower is different solely due to changing the light Direction.  Flash & grid, high and rear, camera right. F16, 1/160, ISO 80.

1 Sunday Irises3. Back Light:   Moving the light even further back and lowering it changes the image again.  The translucence gives it a completely delicate nature, like colored tissue paper.  It doesn’t seem solid like the opaque first image. The impact is less dramatic and softer.  I stopped  down a little more as the sun peeked out from a cloud.  Flash & grid, behind and lower, camera right. F22, 1/160, ISO 80.

3 Sunday IrisesGear used in this post: Pentax K5IIs camera, Tamron 28-75/2.8 lens, Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod & 488RC2 Ball Head, YN560-III Flash, YN RF-603NII Wireless Trigger, Rogue 3-in-1 Flash Grid, Vello Wireless Remote

Editing Tools used in this post: Adobe CC2015, Nik Collection, Pixel Genius Photokit, Wacom Intuos Pro Tablet, Pantone Huey Pro