Category Archives: Part 3 – Buildings and Spaces

How Space Changes With Light

This is an exercise that I really wish I had done in the summer rather than in the middle of winter. In the summer, I could have selected a day with strong sunlight and with the sun high in the sky and found a room where the light and shadows changed dramatically during the day.

For this exercise, I choose to photograph the room I use as an office when I work from home and when working on this course. The window in this room faces north west and in the winter the sun is too low to shine directly into the room and cast strong shadows. These pictures were taken one day after the shortest day, a day which was forecast to be largely clear and sunny with some thin patchy cloud. I mounted my camera on a tripod and set it up to take a picture every twenty minutes. To enable the colours in the pictures to reflect the changing colour of the light I set a manual white balance. I selected the cloudy white balance setting this is obviously not strictly correct but I felt that it was the best of the standard settings given the subject matter.

The sequence of pictures started at 8:05am and finishes at 2:25pm (the times on the photographs below are an hour out, I need to update the time set in my camera). A contact sheet showing the twenty picture I took is shown below, a higher resolution version of this sheet is available here.


The first picture is taken just after sunrise, the room was still quite dark and the camera’s matrix metering has exposed for the view outside and made the scene much brighter than was really the case. Through the sequence of pictures, I left the camera set to automatic exposure in the hope that I would get a sequence where the interior had a similar level of brightness and this seems to have worked reasonable well. I did the minimum of post processing of these picture, in the end just setting up a preset in Lightroom to reduce the highlights by the same amount in each picture to get some detail in the scene through the window.

The most obvious change in the lighting through this sequence is the colour, in the early pictures the light is very blue due to this side of the house being totally in shade. In the final pictures the light colour is much warmer particularly in the last picture. The warming of the light during the day is most visible on the white ceiling in the room which starts off very blue and ends up quite yellow. You can also see the area of blue in the ceiling reducing as it gets later in the day.

When looking closely at the sequence the seventeenth image, third from the end, looks like it is slightly out of sequence because the light looks colder than the previous two or three pictures, my assumption is that there was more cloud when this was taken.

In the notes, it suggests taking multiple pictures at each time but given the lighting in this room at the time of year it was taken I didn’t feel that there was much to be gained from this. Perhaps I just choose the wrong room but I don’t really think any other room in the house would have been a better subject.

Looking closely at specific areas of the image it is possible to see changes in highlights and shadows as the lighting changes through the day. For example, the crops below show a growing highlight of the right-hand side of the right-hand monitor. The shadow of the power block on the monitor screen also get more pronounced as the day goes on. I would like to think that the shadow in the folds of the curtain also get more pronounced but I think this is more something that I want to see rather than something that is real.



Users Viewpoint

2nd Floor of The Switch House at the Tate Modern

This area is an open space with a small coffee bar at one end and galleries used for special exhibitions at the other. It is a place that has been designed for people wait for their friends to arrive before visiting an exhibition or sit with friends discussing what they have seen over coffee. When I took this picture, I was sitting on a wide windowsill drinking a coffee and watching the world pass by. Hence my viewpoint is a little lower than most people who tend to stand around in this space but that is not evident. I believe this is an interesting space and the picture goes some way to capturing its essence I believe that it would be a better picture if there were some people in the foreground perhaps blurred as they walked past my viewpoint.


Green Park Station

A tube platform is a space designed to allow a large people get on and off a train quickly, during the rush hour this platform would be pack solid with people. When I took this picture on a Sunday afternoon the platform was crowed but there was space for me to sit on a seat and capture the crowd of people waiting for the next train. I believe this does capture the space from a user viewpoint, perhaps a stronger image could be created during the rush hour or alternatively late at night when there might only be one person in the frame.


I like the diagonals in this frame formed by the lights and the yellow line along the edge of the platform both of which seem to lead to the woman in the red coat staring at her phone which is some ways captures the essence of the boredom of waiting for a tube train hoping that there will be space to board it.


The Hammersmith Ram

The Hammersmith Ram on a Sunday night, a typical London pub low lighting with a few people drinking on what is always a quite night. An average musician was performing in the corner of the bar presumably to try and attract more customers but in fact he may have been driving people away. The question I was asking myself is should I have another pint or just go back to the hotel I was staying in? To me this picture captures a scene that is repeated in many pubs every day and it may also point towards the lack of trade which is why many pubs are closing every day.


Exploring function

Room 3502, The Frankfurt Marriott

What is the function of a hotel room? Why stay at an expensive hotel chain? When I checked in I was told I had a free upgrade to a room with a skyline view. It was so foggy I could not see across the street so what is special about this room? The view may be better than lower down but I would not have paid extra for it even after the fog cleared the next night.

As someone who travels regularly on business I look for hotels that offer rooms with good internet access, a comfortable bed, a good shower and a restaurant that serves a reasonable breakfast. Friends and relatives always tell me I am lucky to stay in expensive hotels but they don’t see the reality on a trip like this I arrive late, after the hotel restaurant has closed, check into my room fire up the laptop, call some colleagues in California go to sleep after midnight. The next morning I am usually awake before dawn, making some coffee, getting a shower, catching up with email before rushing down to the restaurant for breakfast then getting a taxi to my meeting. The process repeats the following night in the same hotel or perhaps is preceded by a flight to another city.

As hotel rooms go this one is good, excellent wi-fi, a good desk to work at, a huge bed and plumbing that works. I spent sometime in the evening I arrived taking pictures from many angles, including some close-up shots of details but none of them really captured the function of the room. After some thought including a figure in the room would help and took shots that included myself working at the laptop, watching the television and opening the room door but again these didn’t capture the transitory period someone occupies the room. Finally, I came up with the idea of using an exposure that was long enough so that I could walk into or out of the frame so I appear as a ghostly figure. The picture below was my favourite of those I took, it was a five second exposure where I started sitting in front of the laptop and then got up and quickly walked out of the shot to the right.


In the picture, I like the contrast of the solid dark wooden desk contrasting with the ghostly figure working on the left-hand side. I also like the way the diagonal lines in the frame lead toward the room door which is just beyond the wardrobe in the right of the frame. It would have been good to be able to include the door as well but when I tried to do that the composition really didn’t work so well. There are certainly problems with this picture, the room was dark even though I had every light on that I could without burning too much detail. For example, the bed side lights visible in the mirror were just too distracting when they were on. I did try turning the spotlights in the ceiling above the wardrobe doors off but decided although they make the ceiling in the top right of the frame overly bright they bring out detail in the doors rather than just have a very shadowy blob there