Daytime low key photographs

My previous attempts at low key images had either been taken on a darkened theatre stage or, long after the sun had dipped below the horizon. Both situations providing an almost pitch black environment making it relatively easy for me to create the desired lighting effect. This time I was shooting around 1 o’clock on a bright summer’s day & so I needed to re-think my methods.

I selected ISO 100 & set the shutter speed to 1/200 which is my maximum flash sync speed. With the speedlight turned off (mounted on a stand & firing through a white flash umbrella), I took a shot with aperture f/11. However, the resulting image wasn’t completely black. I couldn’t increase my shutter speed to make the image darker because I was already at my maximum sync speed, so I would have to reduce the aperture size (f/16 did the trick). Now I could take shots¬†knowing the only thing illuminating the object, in this case a cymbal, was the light from my flash.

Once I had the the image loaded onto my computer the only things to do were a black & white conversion, apply minimal sharpening & that was it. Well, that was going to be it but as I continued to play around with the image I discovered I really liked this pin hole camera style effect achieved by adding a vignette.

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Week 28

Settings: iPhone 6

Set up. Music video shoot. Pour lighter fluid onto a cymbal, light with a match & play.

Opinion. This image could have been produced in Photoshop or some similar software but it’s actually not been modified at all. It’s surprising how quickly the lighter fluid burns, only providing 6 to 7 seconds of shooting time before it dies out. The cymbal can get quite hot too especially after 5 or 6 takes so be aware of this if you’re going to attempt to replicate the effect. And it goes without saying to use an old, cheap cymbal you don’t care about. Although it is the fluid that is burning, the cymbal’s finish does tarnish & I expect may eventually crack due to the heating & cooling of the metal over a period of time.