Night Lights

The light on our Time Capsule reflected in the top of the cable box it sits on

The light on our Time Capsule reflected in the top of the cable box it sits on

Have you ever noticed how many tiny little lights there are glowing away in our homes these days?  I had to banish all electronics (besides my iPhone, which is also my alarm clock) from our bedroom several years ago because of the lights.

The glowing apple is almost enough light to ready by

The glowing apple is almost enough light to ready by

After struggling with sleep issues, I was educated on ways to improve my sleep environment.  The first rule was to remove all light sources from the room, including my clock.  I had no idea how bright our room was until we started removing the lights.

Room darkening blinds, the removal of all electronics, and closing the interior doors revealed we had a bright light on an alarm panel permanently mounted on the bedroom wall.  I ended up using an old pair of biking shorts wrapped around the panel to cover the light (that was always a little awkward to explain on the rare occasions we showed our bedroom to a guest).  When we turned off the last light as we went to bed, we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces.  We both slept much better.

The only symbol I recognize is the power symbol.  I have no idea what the other two lights on our cable box mean.

The only symbol I recognize is the power symbol. I have no idea what the other two lights on our cable box mean.

Once I was used to sleeping in a totally dark room, I became hyper-sensitive to lights in hotel rooms.  I have to unplug alarm clocks and carefully position the light-blocking curtain, sometimes moving furniture to hold the curtain against the window to prevent light leakage.

Glow of a power button next to stray light coming through the vent

Glow of a power button next to stray light coming through the vent

Once, at a conference in Vegas, my hotel room, a ridiculously large suite, had a sunken seating area.  Because there were steps down to the seating area, lights were installed in the floor for safety.  Unfortunately, they didn’t turn off.  I’m sure the housekeeper wondered why I kept leaving a towel on the floor, but that was the only way I could get to sleep–cover the lights.  I couldn’t seem to remember to pick it up in the morning.

Laptop lights are deceptively bright--a sleeping laptop in the room is enough light to keep me up

Laptop lights are deceptively bright–a sleeping laptop in the room is enough light to keep me up

Tonight, looking around for a photographic subject after working past sunset, I noticed all the glowing lights in the office.  I found myself wondering what they would look like in photographs.

Perhaps they would be more interesting in a wide angle shot of a totally dark room with all these little lights glowing like a constellation in color?  It was fun to try shooting them, though.  I try to remind myself it’s about the journey and not the destination.  🙂

Our own, tiny traffic light is actually the lights on a surge protector

Our own, tiny traffic light is actually the lights on a surge protector

Tisen was not very interested in my photographic experiment.  He was more interested in playing with his newest toy.  I was surprised he picked this toy when we stopped at PetSmart the other day.  It doesn’t have a squeaker in it.  This is usually a show-stopper when it comes to Tisen’s selection of toys.

This one has a strange vibrating device in it.  When you squeeze its paw, it vibrates in a rather strange, R-rated sort of way.  Tisen doesn’t like when it vibrates while he has it in his mouth.  I finally realized he wasn’t playing with it, he was trying to get it to stop vibrating–permanently.  He succeeded.

Tisen puts an end to the vibration in this toy

Tisen puts an end to the vibration in this toy

Flash of Insight

When children learn a new grammar rule, they often start over applying it.  They get that adding “s” makes things plural, so they add “s” to everything.  They learn the exceptions later.  I’ve had the realization that I have learned what the depth of field will be like at a few aperture settings and started applying those settings all the time.

Now, the trick is to step things up a notch and start paying closer attention to the exact results I get in each circumstance.

In the meantime, I had a moment of weakness.  Upon spotting a very good price on some used studio lighting, I decided it was time to figure out how to start taking control of the lighting in my living room.

Today I take on two lessons simultaneously.  First, control depth of field.  Second, control lighting.  I start by using Pat as a reluctant model, but he bails and I turn to Tisen.

As it turns out, the enormous soft box and umbrella of light flashing at him are enough to motivate Tisen to go nap elsewhere.  I am stuck with only Tisen’s toys to shoot.

In reviewing the shots I’ve selected, here are the lessons I took from each (so far):

  1. Over exposure is easy when using giant studio flashes.  I actually really like this picture however.  This is a barely retouched photo–the drawing effect is purely from the overexposure.

2.  The second shot is what happens when you are using two monolights and you forget to turn one on.  I actually like this shot, too, though.  I am beginning to think I do my best work by accident.

3.  A grouping of Tisen’s toys are a great tool for depth of field practice.  In this shot, at f/4.5 (another thing I learned–I apparently have 1/3 stops enabled on my camera), I got a relatively shallow depth of field.  Shallow enough that I was able to tell that Red Dog and Mr. Beaver were not sharp from my camera’s LCD.

4.  Same group shot at f/10, the depth of field is significantly better than the last shot, although Red Dog still does not look sharp.  I am beginning to suspect that it’s difficult to get fake red fur to look sharp.  I also added a fill light to reduce shadows.

5.  I switched Lamb and Mr. Beaver, who always looks like he’s in a shadow.  The depth of field was the same as the previous shot.

6.  Here, Tisen demonstrates both a shallow depth of field (paw in foreground out of focus) and what happens when your subject decides to pop up and take a nap with his head propped against your soft box.

7.  Repeating the previous shot with greater depth of field, now the paw is in focus and so is his face (I think?).

8. Finally, I thought it would be nice to see the setup (plus Tisen).  There is also a light behind the umbrella.  Given that this is all new to me, I was pretty happy with the lighting results.