Exercise 4.2: Artificial Light

Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term). The correct white balance setting will be important; this can get tricky – but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour temperatures in the same shot. You can shoot indoors or outside and the light can be ambient or handheld flash. 

Add the sequence to your learning log. In your notes try to describe the difference in the quality of light from the daylight shots in Exercise 4.1. 

Getting Started:

For this exercise I captured photographs that focused purely on the quality of artificial light. This required me to use slower shutter speeds and a narrower aperture to make sure everything was exposed properly without losing any the spill, the flare or any of the unique qualities usually associated with type of light. I didn’t want to shoot snapshots either, because unlike sunlight, artificial light isn’t a global light source – this means that often you can have multiple different light sources pointing off in multiple different directions and it affects in a completely different way. With sunlight all of the light tends to stem from one fixed point and as the planet rotates throughout the day this point will move in accordance meaning it’s very easy to capture – ruling out snapshots would allow me to capture the spread of artificial light more accurately. I found that shooting outdoors also allowed me document scenes that were only lit by artificial lights as opposed my studio/house which although had some cool scenes – felt very controlled and less experimental.

For this I used a Leica M lens which did not transmit proper lens data to the metadata, so please ignore any mistakes in the exif data. I included it so you could properly see the exposure times, iso, shooting modes, WB settings etc. I will explain my thought process behind some of the more challenging of this experiment, and do a brief summary individually based of the remainder.


For this I went out into the countryside on a rainy night. There’s an interesting point in the Peak District in which you can see the line where all of the light pollution from my city ends and you can only pick it up when doing long exposures. I thought driving out and facing my car towards the light source could metaphorically close the gap. As it was raining I also flicked some water on the lens, as water droplets distort the light and glow with colour. I used a manual lens with no connection to the camera so I could set things properly without interference from the lens. I set it to F8, iso 100 for 15 seconds to capture as much detail as possible from the full frame sensor. I thought this image was very cyberpunk/futuristic and probably isn’t to my taste but I intended on using this for IG so it had to look as clean as possible. I love how the shadow from the car looks very box shaped, the spread across the floor is also incredibly vivid/intense. F8 really brought all the sharpness out, I like to do long exposures that have a hallucinatory amount of detail and intensity. In retrospect I would have shot this at F11 to get less of the flare but I do like how this came out. You can see the light in the distance in the clouds, the city light beams over the trees, I would have liked this to be a bit more intense and could have easily played with the luminosity value in photoshop but I didn’t want to mess with it too much.


I went out to some more industrial areas later in the evening. The sky was really dark and gloomy which contrasted well with the different artificial lights in the scene. I shot this with a tungsten white balance setting. I lowered the camera down to the ground, slightly pointing it up to have more negative space in the darker areas towards the top half of the frame. I wanted the gate to act as a sort of divide in the middle without it seeming too flat, luckily the hill had a soft incline so this wasn’t too much of an issue. I liked the way the light shone out from the gates into two directions but the shadows met together like it’s creating one solid shadow. Because of these narrow apertures you can really see the twinkle of the lights coming through. My camera has an exposure preview setting which you can program to show you different looks before wasting a shot – you can dictate the exposure setting, that’s why I used pattern metering, so when you’re shooting in situations like this you can meter from multiple points in a tricky lighting situation.

Break The Line

I liked the way the building peeps over the hill on this one, I shot this at F11 again to capture more of the detail in the long exposure. I really liked the silhouette around the lights in the building. You can see the ambient global light coming down from the smeared cloudscape, and this intensifies the shape of the building. After fifteen seconds this really started to pop. I was really lucky that the sky was as cloud as it was, because I really wanted the separation in the clouds to smear and look like they’re some kind of fabric. I don’t really like the signs but I think they ground the scene in reality, you feel as though there’s a sense of modernity to the photo as you can see a combination and harmony between different time periods. This is something I really try to look out for as much as possible in my personal work, as my city is constantly evolving I like to capture every step of the process and capture it in a way that might feel pleasant, jarring, awkward – as long as it evokes something I’m doing my job. Obviously I like to leave that up to the viewer’s interpretation as my work is seen by thousands of people all around the world I like to make sure it communicates at least something.


This was shot on Fuji Superia 400 35mm film. It’s not exactly meant to be shot in situations like this but it has a strong green undertone that I think really comes through nicely when shot at night. These are some of the water droplets I was talking about earlier but this time I think they actually take away a lot of the detail in the image, distract and could be taken as ‘amateur’ – I don’t mind that considering a lot of these shots are done experimentally, I am aware this isn’t going to reflect my skill/ability. Narratively I was trying to portray the light here that something perhaps coming in from another dimension, and we’re seeing the light beaming out from in between the gate which then creates this incredibly dramatic pattern on the ground. I also love the traffic in the distance as well, the way the reds bleed into the puddles, it really has a more organic spread than the digital photos in here but of course we’re missing some of the detail in the scan. I shot this at 5.6, in retrospect I would have gone for F8 for a much longer period of time than just 5 seconds – I think this may have taken away some of the intensity in the glow but would have improves the exposure values.

Published by bobbiemeralisarangi

Sheffield based Fine Art Photographer.

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