Week 4: Middle Grey and the SpaceTime Continuum
Basic Black and White Photography with Matthew Swarts
For Next Week:
Review the slides from this week’s slide lecture: arts1810 Middle Gray and the SpaceTime Continuum Slides
Review your camera manual and familiarize yourself with ALL operating parts and controls of your 35mm SLR camera.
Read about Camera Exposure, Camera Controls, and operate a DSLR Camera Simulator until you understand the basic principles of exposure.
Expose at least 1 roll of film. Thoroughly explore the relationship between your camera’s metering system, the lens aperture, and the shutter speed for a variety of lighting situations. In other words, make negatives that explore the way the camera sees the relationship between light, time, and space. Most importantly, you should investigate how the range of exposure choices available to you can radically (or very subtly) effect the way the camera describes the world. Play, in other words, with aperture, time, and light.
Things to remember before you make pictures:
- FILM SPEED: For at least the first half of the semester, you should half-rate your film. This means, in the case of Tri-X, that instead of setting your meter’s ISO/ASA dial at 400, you should set the ISO/ASA of your camera to 200. By lowering the ASA of the film like this, you will be giving the darker areas of your subject more light than the manufacturer of the film recommends. This is a common manipulation practiced by most photographers who want the sharpest, most grain-free image possible for a given film speed.. Half-rating increases the shadow details in the negative, and will give you more options to print from later on. If you are confused, think about how your pinhole camera worked and how useful it was to have a negative that had a lot of information, as opposed to one that was mostly blank. Half-rating ensures that even in situations where you make mistakes in metering, you will be more likely to get something on film.
- LOADING FILM: After you thread your film into the take-up spool and close the back of your camera, be certain that the film rewind knob on the left hand side of your camera body turns (counterclockwise) as you advance the first few frames of the film. (Not visible in automatic cameras) If it doesn’t, you have not loaded the film properly.
Things to consider while making your negatives::
- There is a mathematical relationship between the ISO/ASA of your film, and the aperture and shutter speed necessary to reproduce on film any given level of light that exists in the world. This relationship is inviolable. It is one of the only things you cannot challenge very effectively as an artist. So: what your meter says is very important. Learn how to read your meter effectively and always set your camera according to what the meter tells you.
- Exposure=Intensity x Time. Implicit in this relationship are a series of choices that correspond to settings for your camera’s shutter speed and aperture. These choices are some of photography’s most powerful tools. Explore the connection between f-stops and shutter speed as rigorously as possible in these first few rolls of film and think about how profoundly you can change the way something looks by coaxing the camera to see the world from a variety of different exposure choices. Are you aware, for example, of how radically different your face will appear when it is photographed at close distance with apertures of f2.0 and f22? How about the difference between how a falling leaf looks at 1/15 and 1 second?
- An exposure meter “sees” middle gray. This means in most cases that your meter will take all of the dark and bright and medium tones in whatever you are photographing and average them in such a way that the overall level of light in whatever you photograph will be reproduced as a medium (18%) gray tone. (See London and Upton for a more detailed explanation.). Certain situations in the world will thus create exposure “problems” for you. Make sure if you are photographing something extremely bright or extremely dark that you take this important point into consideration. Looking at the sunlit sky in the middle of the day, for example, and following what the meter says will in most instances give you the incorrect exposure. So will looking in a similar way at the moonless night. Do you understand why?
- Film begins to “fail” at exposure times of one second or longer (and at exposures shorter than 1/1000 second). This is called the reciprocity effect, and you should be familiar with ways to compensate for such situations when making exposures in extremely low or high light conditions. Here is a chart detailing the reciprocity effect for most common films, with corresponding correction information.
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Henri Cartier Bresson
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