30 March 2017

Reading by Candlelight



Yesterday evening was dark, cold, and rainy; perfect weather to curl up with a book by the fire.  I don't have a fireplace, and I wasn't much in the mood for reading, so I decided to take pictures instead!  I hope this picture conveys the mood.

This image was actually quite difficult to capture and process.  I had to compose the scene so that the book, lantern, and table were all clearly visible.  I also wanted the lantern to illuminate the wood grain on the table, which meant shooting in a downward position.  I tried several compositions and arrangements to get the full lantern in the frame, and keep the book in a aesthetically pleasing location.

I wanted the scene to appear to be completely lit by candlelight.  Unfortunately, the candlelight doesn't illuminate the left side of the book, or the top lantern itself.  I used a flash on very low power mounted in a soft box above and left of the camera to light the scene from the front.  This provided the "ambient" light necessary to make out the complete book and the lantern.  The flash is pure white light, which appears much cooler than the candle.  To me, it looks like moonlight, which helps the scene.

The words on the book pages needed to be sharp and discernible, so I used a narrow aperture, which required a long exposure.  The dynamic range (difference between the bright candle flame and darkness on the table) was so extreme I needed to use HDR techniques to avoid the interior of the lantern appearing completely white.  This image is a combination of three separate exposures.  The majority of the image outside the lantern is one exposure.  The interior of the lantern is two exposures (roughly one exposure for the flame, and one for the lantern interior).  I used manual blending in Photoshop to combine the three exposures.  I also blacked-out some distracting background elements.

Overall I am happy with this result.  I don't like the flare above the book, but that's what happens when you have an extremely bright light source in an otherwise dark image.  The fact that I'm using Canon's cheapest lens doesn't help, either.

This image was captured with a Canon EOS 5DS and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM.  The aperture was f/5.6.  A Speedlite 600EX-RT was used with a Westcott RapidBox Octa to illuminate the front of the scene.

1 comment:

  1. I love this shot. I think it does capture the mood you were going for. I agree the flare is mildly annoying, but I don't think it takes away from the overall impression. Nice work!

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