Assignment 4 – Languages of Light



Revisit one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or studio light from Part Four (4.2) and prepare it for formal assignment submission:

  • Create a set of between 6 and 10 finished images. For the images to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, for instance a subject, or a particular period of time.
  • Include annotated contact sheets of all the photographs that you’ve shot for the exercise (see notes on the contact sheet in Part Three).
  • Assignment notes are an important part of every assignment. Begin your notes with an introduction outlining why you selected this particular exercise for the assignment, followed by a description of your ‘process’ (the series of steps you took to make the photographs).  Reference at least one of the photographers mentioned in Part Four of your assignment notes, showing how their approach to light might link in to your own work.  Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you’ve developed the exercise in order to meet the descriptors of the Creativity criteria.  Write 500-1000 words.

Include a link (or scanned pages to Exercise 4.5 in your learning log for your tutor’s comments.



For this assignment I decided to expand on Exercise 4.3.  I had taken photos in both London and Edinburgh for this exercise just prior to Christmas.  I was not going to be visiting London again so decided to expand on the Edinburgh set of photos.   I explored all the photographers outlined in the course book who had undertaken night photography – I particularly liked Rut Blees Luxemburg’s work – see Notes section of the blog (  I liked the way she was able to ‘think outside the box’ and take unusual photos of things such as carparks.

I was also influenced by Brassai’s Paris by Night images which tend to be more traditional but show the people of the city as well as the cityscapes.

I have always loved the city at night and Edinburgh is particularly beautiful with all the old buildings and cobbled streets.   I was at home in Fife over the Easter break and decided to spend the evenings in Edinburgh using artificial light.


 The majority of the photos were taken on the Royal Mile with a few on nearby surrounding streets.  I travelled into Edinburgh on two consecutive evenings on the Easter weekend.  The difficulty with night photography at this time of year is that the sun didn’t set until 8.30 so it was around 11 p.m. before I finished on both evenings – I was somewhat restricted by train times in order to return to Fife.

I would have liked to be more creative in terms of finding out of the way spots or to have had time to look for the unusual but time was against this so my images were perhaps more in tune with Brassai’s work on the whole.  Edinburgh has a reputation for ghost tours so where I took images of the older buildings I tried to include shadowy figures.

On the first evening I took the images using an ISO setting of 800 but while this made the photos sharp it was difficult to get much creativity in terms of either light trails or ghostly figures.  I have only included one photo from this first shoot which was something quite different – at the top end of the Royal Mile near the castle there is a Camera Obscura building with three mirrors outside which gives for some interesting shots – I have included one of a taxi driving outside on the cobbled street by the mirror which distorts the road and car.

The rest of the images are taken the following evening where I used my camera on a tripod – ISO was initially set at 100 and by the end of the evening I had raised it to 200 due to the darkening sky.  I could have used the bulb setting to keep it on 100 but being mindful of the limited time did not want to take exposures that were over 30 seconds.

I feel that this next image is perhaps the weakest of the set.  It was taken during the ‘blue hour’ straight after sunset – the long exposure does give movement in the clouds and with the traffic trails but unfortunately I didn’t straighten the verticals in photoshop before printing so everything seems to lean inwards.  I feel there is too much in the bottom of the photo with a lot of blue empty space through the middle and above the buildings on the left.

There are not many modern buildings in this part of Edinburgh but I liked the way the steps lit up the area in the foreground of this building and with the lamp giving a ‘starburst’ effect.

The Raddison Blu hotel in Edinburgh has a changing light colour display – I was able to capture it in blue to go along with the hotel name.  Unfortunately there were road works outside so the barriers do spoil the image.

As I went further up the road it became darker and the rest of the photos have a black sky.  St Giles Cathedral was the next on my list.  It took some patience to get this selected photo due to an annoying car that first of all was parked just in front of the monument with its lights on and then drove round it and parked just outside on the road – it did eventually drive off!  By this time I did an internet search on how to straighten the verticals in Photoshop – (duplicate layer, transform, perspective and then drag the handles until it is straight) so was pleased with the final result.  Some sharpening was also added.

The next three photos show the particular ghostly effect I had hoped to achieve with old buildings and ghostly figures.  These were created using a long exposure but not too long to completely obliterate the people.  It would have been even better if I could had some people dressed up in either ghostly clothes or old fashioned clothes but couldn’t quite plan for this.

The photo of the castle unfortunately has a lot of foreground space due to trying to get the whole castle in – it does look better as a panoramic picture with that cropped out but in the interests of keeping the photos in the same format left the foreground in.

The next image is taken looking down one of the many little cobbled staircases that abound in this area and has a group of ghostly figures coming towards me.

This next photo is looking back down the road from the castle.  The different lights on the buildings made it somewhat difficult to capture and there are some slightly blown highlights on the right with it being a little dark in the background.  Again there are some ghostly figures walking up the road.  Sadly there was a modern litter bin that took away from the ambience of the photo.

And last but not least I decided to attempt some traffic trails – the idea in this photo was to try and frame the statue (I think it is of Robbie Burns) with the trails – this has been somewhat successful although I think the thicker white trail at the top (from a passing tram) is perhaps too thick for the photo.

Assessment Criteria

I think I demonstrated my knowledge of the technical and visual skills required for this assignment.  I knew that in order to capture images after dark you either need to raise the ISO setting on the camera or use longer shutter speeds.  A tripod is essential for avoiding camera shake with longer exposures.  I wanted the images to be sharp so also used a narrow aperture.  I think I have been able to be critical of my final images and to point out the ones where composition was not as good.  I have included these weaker images to show that I can reflect and know what has not worked as well as what works.

This assignment was around being creative – this is something I always find harder than the technical side of photography.  I have tried in this assignment to be creative with my use of longer exposures  in order to create in some of the images an effect that goes in with the nature of old Edinburgh.  I also took some photos of new buildings to show the contrast.  Again I used long exposures to capture traffic trails and used these to frame.

I researched the suggested photographers in order to gain and understanding of how they had used artificial light in their images.  I have communicated their ideas in my Notes pages and took some of their ideas but made them my own in the context of old Edinburgh.

In terms of my written work I believe this is clear and easy to understand and follows a logical order.

The link to Exercise 4.5 is as follows: and is the last exercise in that section.

The annotated contact sheets have been sent with the print version to my tutor – given the large number of pages I have not uploaded them to this blog.


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