Monday, August 30, 2010

18. How space changes with light

In an urban environment, such an exercise can be quite difficult to complete as there are few buildings tall enough to actually capture the way that light changes during the day.  Most accessible space is in shade from other buildings during much of the day.  This is compounded by the fact that frequently rooms are only illuminated from a single direction, corner rooms are rare and much prized.

For this activity I needed a building that was accessible at a variety of times of day and easily accessible.  I decided to go with two different locations, the Theatine Church and my home office/work area.  Neither presents an ideal choice, my room has a single East facing window, whilst the church is 30 minutes away by foot/subway.  First of all my office, here I had arbitrary access and could create the following sequence of images during the day.  I used my Canon G11 located in a fixed position on a bookcase facing my workstations. This sequence also reveals the fact that I am a technophile, the left hand monitor is attached to my office computer, whilst the right two constitute my digital darkroom and where I am sitting writing this document.

At the earliest time of day, 6:15am the light is soft and the room dimly but more evenly lit.  As the day goes on the room gets far brighter with quite a harsh white light.  I use blinds most of the time.  What is curious is that the intensity and strength does not drop very much as the sun crosses from East to West, the reason being that opposite my room, about 8m away is an apartment building painted bright white which reflects and maintains the intensity of the sun.  It is only after around 6pm that the light starts to soften and the camera struggles with the exposure.  By 9pm the light is almost gone outside and all that can be seen is the faint glow of various electronic devices.

The Theatine Church offered better potential, my first image shows the church situated on the West side of Odeons Platz and taken some months ago in Winter:

The church is illuminated by a gallery of windows high up towards the roof of the main chapel and  is orientated in an East-West line.  I was hoping that as the Sun moved around the sky the light inside the church would reflect this.  Each photograph is taken from the same vantage point and with as near as I can make it the same framing.  In each of the following images taken inside the church I have matrix metered and not enhanced the images in any way in post processing:

At 7am in the morning the Sun is directly behind me and the church is filled with light as the Sun is able to penetrate into the far distance.

By 9:40 the sun had climbed higher and the quality of light has changed with deeper shadows and all of the light being at the top of the church - the camera exposure is dominated by the bright light in the center

After lunchtime at 1:40pm the light is now towards the South and to the left of this image.  The height of the Sun is again limiting the amount of light entering the building

By early evening at 5:33pm the sun is falling and is now shining very distinctly from the West and thus the far end from me.  Once again the church is brighter and more evenly lit.  This is happening because all interior surfaces are painted white and when the Sun is low enough the Windows let in more light which is then diffusely reflected by the interior surfaces.  When the sun is higher less light penetrates and we get a small number of very bright spots.

The light changes are very subtle, because the light enters the building very high and so at ground level most light has been repeatedly reflected, however, it is clear that the best photographs will be taken early or late in the day, unless deep shadow is the goal.  I did return later, however, the church was locked after 6pm.

During my day taking photographs I also looked at how the light in the church affected other parts of the building.  First of all the windows in the dome at 7am show how the sun is coming through the windows and reflecting off the inner surfaces:

At around the same time the play of light on the walls of the church show how the light is entering through high windows

Later in the day and from a different angle the light is much more diffuse (5:30pm)

At the same time the opposite wall was enjoying good modeling light

Away from the center of the church the arched walkways at the sides needed artificial lighting all day long (1:30pm)

However, this might have been part of the design to ensure that the small chapels and monuments to the side could be candle lit

or be really dark enough for the votive candles to make an impression.  These photos taken at 1:30pm would have been washed out if this was not a dark area of the church

My final observation from this days shooting is completely at odds with the grandeur and solemnity of the church.  In 1914 the following photograph was made:

Adolf Hitler celebrates the beginning of World War 1, one of the first ever photographs of Hitler in Munich.  For comparison today

Not quite the same angle, but a very different scene, peaceful, quiet and without the horror.  My final photograph is something Adolf would never have approved of, a small fruit and vedge stand on Odeons Platz, taken from just in front of the church (it is the red colour in the above image):

Munich is a city of many contrasts with a history that plumbed the depths of evil and scaled the heights of humanity - today it is a beautiful cosmopolitan city, a great playground for a student photographer.

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