Crappy Light

One thing I've envisioned for the project from the start is the use of various diverse locations as a backdrop and serving as context. Some of those locations may not be what one would consider photo-friendly in terms of lighting conditions. Since I made the decision for a dozen reasons that strobes are off the table and pretty much all lighting gear I've started to experiment with a couple of conditions that are usually a giant turn-off for me — as in I just won't bother taking pictures.

A week or so ago Jeanette was hanging around and we suddenly were in the mood to make some pictures around midnight. What better to do than try to make some kinda-cool pictures in the world's crappy-est lighting conditions? The first thing I did was use some conditions down the hall from the studio that produce conditions I just cannot stand (especially in black & white) but are quite common; Subject way darker than background, semi-flat light bouncing everywhere, overhead bulb kinda thing. Not great for sure, no wonder I don't bother most of the time.

Next up was super high contrast low-power florescent fixtures of mixed variety. This is usually a no-go for color and presents challenges any way you slice it, especially for any sort of documentary approach where a foot here or there changes exposure wildly.

Not too bad. I can definitely work with is. Seems most of my hang-ups are color related. Probably from the nightmare of shooting color film in mixed florescent.

I actually like some of these and this was the first time Jeanette and I ever made pictures together.

Moving on we used some extremely hard light with no fill. I actually love working with very hard, directional light. It's just not super conducive to flexible subject positioning when working with people in motion.

Next up was a context that will definitely be a factor in some of the locations on my list. A small windowless space — like a bathroom. Bathrooms with a window and lots of white reflective surfaces can be great. Not so much without the window or at night with a small bulb above the sink kind of thing.

The first then we tried was as it was. Small overhead bulb over the sink out of frame and a small desk lamp up high and behind on top of a cupboard. Don't ask me how or why the desk lamp got there, can't remember.

After a few different positions I moved that desk lamp around a bit.

I played with it direct from the same direction as the overhead bulb and actually made a little use of the cooling holes around it to project some spots on the floor.

Then I bounced it around a bit to provide a bit more wrap-around and fill. Worked in color, made positioning easier but I liked the contrast without the fill a lot better for black and white. At least for the grittier feel I want for this project.

Part of this was getting over some of my own hang-ups given I'm not going for "perfect". In fact the imperfections are something that I want. The other part is making sure I don't overlook the obvious when I am using alternate locations. A perfect example is moving a small desk lamp around, or just bringing one with me. It's easy to overlook that kind of thing once other decisions have been made like no speedlights/strobes/big modifiers etc.

End Note

All images made with the Fuji XT-1 and 23mm/1.4 wide-open. Processing via LR CC and VSCO FILM05 BW400CN.