Practice: Light Painting 2019

BACKGROUND: In 2018 I developed a work for class which experimented with shadow and light, using a semi-opaque white plastic sheeting as a medium to generate a set of shadows. While I was moderately satisfied with the outcome, I felt as though the time pressures and circumstances surrounding the installation off the work left a lot of potential for this untapped. In short, the real outcome for me was the discovery of ways in which this very basic material (white tablecloth plastic) can be manipulated. So for the following weeks and months I intend to experiment and explore the possibilities in more depth.

skeletal remains (abstract human); light on plastic UoW 2018

While the focus on this project was the abstracted representation of the Human Skeleton and questions of robotics/ genetic manipulation therein; in this phase of want practice I will investigate further into the qualities of the Light-On-Plastic media. It’s a material I have used in a couple of design projects before, and I will create a separate post to archive these experiments. But here I will begin with a simple analysis of some very basic experiments I undertook today as follows:

wide view of the setup: two plastic sheets, overlapping, with a single lamp approx 1m behind

There are two outcomes I am investigating with this series:

  1. How the light interacts with the material in the space: the material is very lightweight and will sway/ react with even a very slight movement in air pressure, such as the wake of a body walking past, or even gentle shifts in pressure within the room.
  2. How these lighting effects translate to photography/ video, within the context of exposure, frame rate, ISO and depth-of-field

Here we can see a wide angle set-up, with a single lamp, taken at 200ISO set for normal exposure (f-stop 4.0 at 1/25 shutter). I used a low ISO to begin with to see how far I can push the possibilities of shutter speed and aperture in low light without underexposing. It turns out that’s pretty much the limit.

close up of material, same conditions

The notable outcome for this image is the difference in how the light behaves reacting with either one or two sheets. There’s a significant difference in tone where the sheets overlap. Also worth noting that the sheets are touching, as even the smallest of gaps between them can generate a different effect.

same setup, light is angled from the left

By angling the lamp slightly to the left there is a noticeable difference. Firstly we can see the creases and contours inherent to the plastic, which form as a result of being stored for long periods rolled up. Also we can see a very faint reflection and shadow along the edges of where the two pieces overlap. These subtle reactions demonstrate a significant level of tonal variation from a simple repositioning of the lamp.

same setup, angled lamp, taken from below – 400ISO, f-stop 4.5, 1/50 shutter speed

I wanted a very low depth-of field for this shot to let the foreground fall out of focus. The main are of focus is the middle of the frame, and the line created by the overlap/ creased area. The object of this photograph is to see how this would impact the perspective for the viewer, as the outcome is abstracted from the vertical to the horizontal.

At this point I ran out of time for the workshop, will continue to test the following iterations:

Investigating the dynamics of semi opaque plastic sheeting under different lighting conditions:

  • Different physical shapes of the plastic:
    • draped vertically
    • taut/ no creases or folds
    • loose, incorporating folds and innate curves from the sheeting
    • layered, close together
    • layered at a distance
    • layered with different colours, close or distant
  • position of the lighting
    • distant/ close to the sheet
    • different angles
    • how this impacts the various physical shapes of the plastic as above
    • multiple lights
    • different types of light (LED vs incandescent vs fluorescent vs natural light)
    • coloured lighting in conjunction with white or coloured plastic
  • movement of the plastic
    • ‘natural’ movement, reacting to air pressure
    • mechanically generated movements
    • human generated movements
  • projecting onto the plastic
    • still photo projection
    • video projection
    • black and white vs colour, how this reacts to white/ coloured surfaces
    • projecting text/ titles onto different qualities of the arrangement
  • shadows and objects
    • mechanical objects
    • organic objects (human, plantlife)
    • insectlife?
  • What are the performative elements which become apparent from these various states
  • How do these various compositions lend themselves to immersive/ interactive possibilities

Investigating the photogenic qualities of these various states of lighting and sculptured plastic sheeting

  • what are the differences between these effects “live” and photographed/ videographed
  • using different exposures, f-stops, shutter speeds to enhance/ degrade the image

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