26 May 2012

Self-assignment - ups, downs but dont' give up

Every now and then I try to give myself a small photography assignment. Mostly because I want to learn something new, improve the technique or just to have some fun. It is not always planned. Lately I have created an assignment spontaneously while taking a shot meant for the Nightscapes Google+ page. After setting up the tripod I started shooting. The results were, well - not great:



But then I have noticed quite spectacular light emerging right after the street lighting was switched on. During warming up the lamps get nice, red color (for about 1 minute). And the idea was born: take an interesting shot of this light. Why does it deserve to be called a photo-assignment? For two reasons:
- The scene needs to be composed to let the light be visible and  attract the attention. On the photo above the lanterns are hardly visible. The ability of seeing good compositions with the objects I want to photograph is in my opinion something requiring continuous practice.
- It requires quite some preparations and leaves little time for shooting: the red light is produced by the lamp during warm-up time only and it lasts about 1 minute. Nice exercise to learn how to operate with your equipment efficiently.

So the preparations started. First the decision: how to expose the light. First attempt was to play safe: show the red line of lamps above another (white) line. Simple, but with some potential. The tripod has been setup, camera prepared, some pre-shots taken to check the composition and the ambient light. Then waiting  to for the dusk and the lamps to lit. And then... bummer, the lamps started to glow white immediately! I should have known better, but for this day I was done. It was no time to move to the place where the 'right' lanterns were located.



Next try, new chances. In the meantime I have abandoned the original idea of the light lines and started to look for something different. Remember the first photo? At the left side you can probably notice the industrial constructions. Anyway, such constructions are nice objects to shoot:

The rough idea has been born. To look for the right location I rode along both sides of the channel. Finally I have found it: nice combination of the objects, the silos still enlighten with the day light. And from the position I have noticed that just couple meters ahead of me another possible shooting location. Good - there would be my fallback. And the shot was exactly as I wanted:


Sure, not the greatest photo in the world. But it is controlled and prepared by me and is a result of a design process.

To summarize, the assignment took me 2 evenings, a number of iterations, one failure moment. That's why it is worth practice and continuous improvement: in real life very often there will be no time for 2nd try...