Tag Archives: light

Alan Henriksen

While researching photographers for Assignment 5, I came across the work of Alan Henriksen featured in LensCulture. His body of work is entitled “Acadia – Upper Hadlock Pond“. I was particularly drawn to the way he expresses water, as my subject for Assignment 5, Finn Slough, features similar aspects.

The body of work is, in a nutshell, a narrative about the Upper Hadlock Pond, in all its distinctive moods. The pond is located on Mount Desert Island in Maine and spans an area of approximately 35 acres. Henriksen’s images are in black and white and feature lily leaves and reeds in the pond water, which I find highly expressive and which rather remind me of Japanese silk screens. By confining the colour palette to black and white, the photographer has removed the distraction that colours would have brought to the images and so the expressive nature of the images really comes to the fore.

Upper Hadlock Pond 55, © Alan Henriksen Image reproduced with permission

Upper Hadlock Pond 55, © Alan Henriksen
Image reproduced with permission

The work takes on an abstract form, with light being the key player in the series. Some of the photographs where the water reeds grow prolifically look like a sketcher’s dark cross hatchings exercises (Upper Hadlock Pond 23: Image 13 of 20). The first image (Upper Hadlock Pond 55: Image 1 of 20, seen left) is high key image with a few reeds and lily leaves are scattered across the image. The pond water is rendered mirror smooth and a very light muted grey, almost white in colour with a soft gradation in tone down towards the bottom right of the frame in a barely perceptible triangular form, which subtly keeps returning the viewer to the reeds.  This is my favourite image. I like the verticals of the reeds and their reflections in the water, and the contrasting circular form of the lily leaves which serve to lead the eye back around the frame again.

I find the lighter toned images in the series convey a sense of calm and serenity, while the darker ones seem troubled and have a sense of foreboding or disturbance, a sense of an approaching storm perhaps. Who knows what lurks beneath the surface? Movement is detected in all the images by the ripples in the water, probably caused by a breeze or wind blowing across the water, with the exception of the first image – again emphasising the serenity of the moment. Throughout the series one is very aware of the light quality which plays on the convolutions of the ripples, the shadows of their troughs and the reflections off their crests, as well as the shadows and highlights striking the reeds and lily leaves. This is also a collection of images consisting of three design elements, namely verticals, horizontals and circles and I find it really inspiring that one subject can be expressed in so many different ways. Definitely something to work towards.

More of Alan Henriksen’s work can be viewed on his website.


Alan Henriksen Photography [online]. Available from: http://www.alanhenriksen.com/index.html [Accessed 25 March, 2015]

Henriksen, Alan. (2013) Acadia – Upper Hadlock Pond [online]. LensCulture. Available from: https://www.lensculture.com/search/projects?q=alan+henriksen&modal=true&modal_type=project&modal_project_id=9844 [Accessed 25 March, 2015]

Upper Hadlock Pond in Acadia National Park, Maine [online]. AcadiaMagic.com. Available from: http://www.acadiamagic.com/upper-hadlock-pond.htm [Accessed 26 March, 2015]


Assignment 4 – Tutor Feedback

I was over the moon when I received my tutor’s feedback for Assignment 4. His comments are below and my responses are in italics.

Overall Comments

You’ve found a very interesting object to photograph and it certainly lifts these photographs, adding to the feeling – often darkly surreal – which the light enhances. You’ve experimented with different artificial light (flash, torch, diffused light, a tent!), used backgrounds well and found ways to express the four themes effectively. Well done!

There is very little to criticize here. perhaps you could have done something with sunlight or just changed the setting more to create variety.

[Thank you so much for these words of encouragement. It was a frustrating, yet very rewarding assignment to do. I agree with the comment about the sunlight, but unfortunately it was raining buckets the entire time I was working on the assignment and the few times that the sun did come out was during work hours where I was otherwise occupied].


Your first photo of the mannequin bust is a beautiful silhouette with a fiery red background. You’ve counteracted the obvious dark against white by making the background very dark too, but allowed just enough light to bring out the outline of the shape.

The bust is both strange and beautiful; strange because it is bald and decapitated yet with fair features. It is an interesting combination to play with – something which Hans Belmer did in his early photographs.

The second photo is nicely set up to repeat the mannequin’s profile outline in the shadow. But here the ruffled sheet and the mould line on the neck are distracting. [My tutor provided an example of how he had fixed the photo in Photoshop, by using the Healing brush and making a white vignette around the image].

[I totally agree about the ruffled background cloth. I’ve come to the conclusion that cloth backdrops are not great. I encountered this problem with one of the exercises as well and resorted to all sorts of tricks to try to get the cloth smooth enough for the camera. To the naked eye it was flat. I think an investment in paper backdrops will be on my list for any future infinity curve setups that have to be done. I also agree about the seam line. Totally missed that in post processing].


Your “form” photos are both similar, but vary in the degree of accentuation of form. You’re right to try to minimize form in what is a mock portrait, because emphasizing it too much can be overly dramatic and self-conscious.

[Thank you].


You’ve had to add texture with hair and woolly hat, which is fine, and you’ve used sharp focus to emphasize the eye lashes, lips and other textures.

Texture stands out with raking light – that is from the side. You can increase it artificially in Photoshop by increasing contrast and sharpness. But you’ve done well here to be subtle.

[Thank you].


Your first colour portrait of the bust is really strong. The features of the mannequin’s face emerge from the dark in fiery red hues. She looks like a lost teenager! The texture of the hair is strange here but manages to work well. It’s eerie because it’s almost real. I also like the way you’ve composed this with the head on the far left leaving a dark, looming space behind her. Good use of the frame for drama.

Your second picture is interesting because you’ve used colour to divide the face and it gives the portrait a divided, schizophrenic quality with that dark line down the centre of her face.

[Thank you].

Learning Logs/Critical Essays

Your research has been useful, into both technical know-how and artistic expressions with light. I’m glad you are finding inspiration from other photographers and learning from them. That is part of artistic education of course.

Creativity is largely about entering a process of play and experimentation with your photo-making. You also need to figure out what interests you both visually and philosophically so these can be kneaded into your work.

Your writing is orderly and extensive. It’s vital to put your thoughts about the work of other photographers down on paper – these idiosyncratic opinions and reactions will also form part of your personal artistic voice.

[I’m still struggling with expressing my inner feelings about other photographers’ work, but I will work on that].

Suggested reading/viewing

Sontag is not easy, so maybe have a look at David Bate’s lucid and accessible “Photography: Key Concepts”. He’s also an interesting photographer.

Pointers for the next assignment

AS5 is all about the SUBJECT, so it is vital that you understand the subject and seek to inform your viewers through the photographs you make. You will use composition, lighting and design, but they are only a means to express the subject. It is a big assignment and perhaps your most challenging to date. But it can be also the most rewarding. Choose a subject that you can focus on over a long period of time; something that interests you and has a visual manifestation. It is vital to think of how the subject can best be visualized, made expressive and informative.

[All good comments which I will take on board. I am determined not to let Sontag get the better of me though, so I will forge on with that book, but will also see if I can obtain a copy of Bates’ book. Once again, thank you for the encouraging feedback].


Exercise: Concentrating light

The brief:

Sometimes, you may want the light to fall on just a part of the scene, having the surrounds in shadows. The easiest way to confine the lighting is to place something dark, like a piece of black card, between the lamp and part of the subject.  Experiment making a snoot with thick black paper and taping it to the flash.

When I first read this exercise I thought it would be a perfect exercise to try and create a film-noir effect which is very popular in the old movies.

I first tried this exercise using black foam rolled up into a snoot and attached to my speedlight with a rubber band (fig 01). I don’t think my background was right for this setup as I kept on getting rather hard shadows on most of my photos and I could not get the background to go completely black. I was shooting with a flash connector cord to my camera so I could utilize the TTL function on my flash, but the flash head kept on moving every time I changed position which changed the position of the light beam, which frustrated me no end.

Fig 01 with snoot

Fig 01 with snoot
f16, 1/125, 50mm, ISO 100

I then tried it with my flash inside a collapsed umbrella and I quite liked the effect, but it it didn’t quite work out. Unfortunately I didn’t have a human volunteer for this exercise so the trusty rooster had to stand in again. I could not get the right light fall off that I was after.

Fig 02 with collapsed umbrella

Fig 02 with collapsed umbrella
f16, 1/200, 50mm, ISO 100

I then noticed in Light, Science and Magic (p. 232)  that a gridspot could be used to achieve the effect I was after. I wasn’t planning on spending more money on this section, so I googled how to make a gridspot. David Hobby’s Strobist site popped up with a snazzy DIY plan using black straws. Not finding any black straws in the local craft store, I decided to use black pipe cleaners and quickly twisted and wove a few pipe cleaners together to form my grid spot and wrapped it around my flash head and secured it with an elastic band (fig 03).

Fig 03 Homemade grid spot

Fig 03 Homemade grid spot

The result was much better and after experimenting on the placement and height of the light I persuaded my husband to sit for me (fig 04). Flash power was on full power, the light stand was positioned in front and about 1 metre from my husband and about 30 inches above his head. I definitely prefer the grid spot image.

Fig 04 Film noir effect - concentrating the light

Fig 04 Film noir effect – concentrating the light
f16, 1/200, 50mm, ISO 100

Reference List

Hunter, Fil et al, (2012). Light—Science & Magic An Introduction to Photographic Lighting. 4th ed. Oxford: Focal Press

More Cheap and Easy Grid Spots. Strobist [online]. Available from: http://strobist.blogspot.ca/2007/06/more-cheap-and-easy-grid-spots.html. [Accessed 24 January, 2015]

Kumi Yamashita

One word — Wow! I’m totally blown away by this artist’s work. Kumi Yamashita is a young Japanese sculptor, now living in New York. I mainly looked at her Light and Shadow series. She creates some of her work by constructing a single sculpture or multiple objects using common everyday materials and places them in relation to a single light source. The effects are truly amazing! She takes square sheets of resin or paper and pinches and rounds them out on one edge and when that material is then placed on the wall with the correct positioning of the light, a profile of a face is seen.

In another installation she uses a sheet on a flat surface. By artfully arranging the right edge of the sheet a silhouette of a naked woman can be seen emerging from under the fabric. A few of her installations feature the arrangement of large wooden block letters. The letters appear to be arranged haphazardly on the wall, but in what must be a painstakingly slow process, actually reveal profiles of a child, a woman and a woman standing at a balcony. She designed the alphabet blocks herself, and with each block having a different height this enables her to work out the placement to get the required shadow. These are all excellent examples of raking light at its best!

In her Chair installation, one sees a figure of a man seated on a plain chair, but on looking at the close up photo which is taken at a slight angle one can see that the chair is not planed flat but has cutouts which create the shadow.In Clouds, another similar installation features the shadow of a couple holding up the “installation” over their heads like a newspaper as if they have been caught in a sudden downpour. The shadow edges closest to the “installation” are quite hard, but the edges gradually soften until they almost form a mist around the legs of the couple. A great use of axial lighting.  I am in total awe that a flat or curved piece of metal, wood or paper with certain cutouts can create all these effects.

Yamashita says about her work:

I sculpt using light and shadow. I construct single or multiple objects and place them in relation to a single light source. The complete artwork is therefore comprised of both the material (the solid objects) and the immaterial (the light or shadow).

While I have mainly concentrated on her Light and Shadows series, Yamashita does also work in other media, which I will only briefly mention. She creates portraits of people by using their own expired credit cards under a sheet of paper and rubbing over the numbers. Again the results are spectacular! Examples of these can be seen in her Rubbing series. She also creates portraits by using a white wooden board, galvanized nails and one single unbroken thread. The shading and modelling on these portraits is fantastic. These can be seen in the Constellation series. Another type of portrait that she makes is by using fabric and pulling out pieces and pieces of the lighter threads.

Clearly this lady is super talented. I find her work very evocative and pensive, while at the same time realise that it is extremely calculated and engineered. It has to be to create the silhouettes that emerge from her installations. Amazing what a single light bulb can do in the right location. I might even try my hand at the paper silhouette. If I do succeed, I’ll post a photo in this section, but don’t hold your breath – I’m sure it is more difficult than it looks. Below is a video of one of her installations entitled Dialogue. It consists of 60 rotating profiles concentrically arranged, lit from the side.

Reference List

Kumi Yamashita [online]. Available from http://www.kumiyamashita.com/ [Accessed 6 January, 2014]

Yamashita, Kumi (1999). Video of Dialogue [webcast, online] Kebun. 9/7/2007. 8 mins 59 sec. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLMLt_7_Evs (Accessed 6 January, 2015

Bob Avakian

While scrolling through Lenscratch’s 2014 favourite photographs I came across Bob Avakian’s work. I liked his work so much that I thought a short write up was in order. His body of work is all about how light creates mood and atmosphere.

Bob Avakian is a photographer from Martha’s Vineyard and he does his landscape photography there and on the neighbouring Chappaquiddick island and has won numerous awards and participated in exhibitions in New York and Massachusetts.

His body of work consists of images taken at night and at sunrise. Many of his images have an unknown light source in them. I especially like the one called Into the Light which is a photograph of a road sweeping around a curve with two houses alongside it. The house furthest from the camera is illuminated from within by indoor lighting and the brightly lit window immediately draws the eye to that part of the image. Another bigger light source from behind the house is illuminating the back side of the house and a little spillage around the side of the house illuminates the road and lawns and the barriers on the side of the road. Shadow beams radiate into the night sky from this golden light source, fading gradually into the surrounding darkness. There is so much mood and atmosphere to this image. Without this lighting the photograph would be rather mundane.

Another night image that is particularly poignant is Avakain’s Flower Moon Tree. It is an image taken at a very low perspective, probably belly on the ground height, of a farmhouse with a tree in the foreground. So the horizon line is low in the image. Only the side of the white farm house is visible, being illuminated by an outdoor light source which the viewer cannot see. The light is quite white and casts white-pink tinge on the approaching driveway. At the top of the frame we see a full moon illuminating the rest of the scene with its golden light. There must have been quite a bit of cold moisture in the upper atmosphere as the moon has atmospheric rings of light which are caused by the light refracting off ice crystals. The gnarly branches and foliage of the tree reach out as if to embrace the moon, leading the eye upwards. Again in this image the light creates the mood.

The mood in Avakian’s Morning Walk is soft and ethereal. This is one of the images from his Day series. It is an image of lone figure in the far off distance walking along the beach. The fact that the distant horizon is scarely visible and the golden haze of the early morning sunrise which envelopes the figure creates the effect that the person is going to disappear into another world. The surrounding light matches the tones of the sand while the blue tones of the sea are slightly darker than that of the overhead sky. This image works so well because it consists of the muted complementary tones of blue and orange. Tiny shadows from debris washed up on shore create a leading line of sorts directing the viewer to the lone figure on the beach.

In contrast with the Morning Walk image, Avakian’s photo of Chappaquiddick Ferry is almost monochromatic.  It is shot from within the photographer’s car which is on the ferry, approaching the dock. The sea is choppy and cold and on the approaching bank some cars and bicycles stand waiting. What made me do a double take on this image was the immediate foreground which is a silver curved shaped object reflecting the approaching dock. The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to this as this is the brightest object in the photograph.  I first thought that this was a canoe or kayak, but upon closer inspection I noticed the rain drops and surmised that it was the bonnet of the photographer’s car. The only colour in this image is from the yellow-brown tones from the grass and shrubbery and the few muted green trees flanking the approach to the dock. The waves and the raindrops provide movement to the image to the extent that I can almost feel the pontoon bobbling its approach to the dock. The dark vignette at the top of the frame also draws one into the frame. Again one can feel the mood in this image and there is something a little ominous about the mood in this photo. Perhaps it has to do with the historical fact that this ferry was close to the spot where Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge into the Poucha Pond causing the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

All of Bob Avakian’s work that is online is pretty amazing. They all have a certain amount of wow factor and I do like the general feeling of isolation that is evident in his images. After looking at an aerial map of Chappaquiddick Island it is very clear that there are only a few houses on the island and lots of wide open spaces between them. I imagine that Martha’s Vineyard is fairly similar, but probably a little more populated. The isolation depicted in his images is a positive one. It is more a sense of sereneness and tranquility. Oh that I had such open spaces close to home.

Reference List

Bob Avakian Photography [online]. Available from http://www.bobavakianphotography.com/ [Accessed 4 January, 2015]

Incident on Chappaquiddick Island, 18 July 1969 [online]. History.com. Available from: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/incident-on-chappaquiddick-island [Accessed 4 January, 2015]

Eydís Sigurbjörg Luna Einarsdóttir – Eastside Culture Crawl

Eastside Culture Crawl is an annual 4-day art, design and craft festival held in East Vancouver. This year there are about 350 artists exhibiting at the event. I researched the list looking for photographers and came up with a few that I decided were worth investigating. The Crawl is an interesting event as the artists open up their studios to the public, but many of the artists actually live in their studios so you literally walk through their living spaces to get to the art work.

Eydís Einarsdóttir was the one photographer whose work I was most intrigued to see. She is from Iceland and lives in Vancouver. She was in attendance and it was nice to hear some of her back stories about her photographs. I found her use of light really amazing, almost like poetry. One of my favourite images that I saw was a sunset in Iceland. She favours making images of big skies and extremely small horizons. In some of her photos, one comes across the horizon only by chance – it is almost as if it is there as afterthought, but in a good way – the skies have such amazing detail that they tell their own stories. But by and large her landscapes are quite minimalist, which really works well. There is one image that is quite similar to Andrea Gursky’s The Rhine II image in structure, having the wide, open space, the centred horizon line and the leading in layers. I’m not normally a fan of abstract work, but I do like her abstract landscapes. One can still tell what the subject matter is and she has deployed various methods to create the abstract like defocussing the image, or performing a slow pan across the width of the image which really look quite lovely when viewed in a large print.

I like the way she creates these layers or strata of depth in her photographs which lead the eye in deeper and deeper into the image. Whether in colour or black and white the beauty of the landscape shines through, the main subject always being that of the amazing light.

Her series on Icelandic waters is a perfect colour study on analgous colours – the blue skies setting off the turquoise of the lakes and ocean. She has done some beautiful long exposures rendering the turquoise water smooth as glass and the clouds’ movement radiating out in different directions. She uses simple elements of design such as points, diagonals and leading lines in her photographs to convey movement and stability.

She has an interesting series on her website called Paper Play, where she was inspired by the latest summer fashion colours and created paper shapes to photograph in a very fun way. I wish I had come across this series while I was busy with the colour assignment. Still, this series serves an interesting example of light, shadow and form. Her black and white series on Junk Food is also all about lighting, showing textures of potato crisps, toasted marshmallows, dried noodles, corn dogs and doughnuts. I particularly like the ones of the deep fried potato crisps, where all the bubbles are etched into 3D by the light.

Eydís is also a commercial photographer, working a range of subjects from still life, fashion, beauty, food and drink to name but a few. I shall definitely be going back to her website to study her lighting techniques in more depth.

Reference List

Einarsdóttir, Eydís [online]. Studio 80s. Available from: http://www.studio80s.com [Accessed 22 November, 2014]

Light Fantastic: the Science of Colour

I was doing some research on colour and came across this extremely enlightening lecture by Professor Pete Vukusic from the University of Exeter. In this lecture he explains the colour spectrum, how our eyes see light, infra-red light, colour blindness, mixing pigments, interference, iridescence,  photonic makeup, neo-impressionalism, pointillism, just to name a few. This lecture definitely opened my eyes to light and colour and how complicated the workings of each really are. Definitely worth the hour to view this video.

Reference List

Lecture, Prof. Pete Vukusic. Light Fantastic: the Science of Colour [webcast, online]. Institute of Physics, Exeter University, UK, 2007. 1 hour 05 mins 11 secs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWhGmwUojBE (accessed 1 September, 2014)