An inquiry into why light needs darkness:-

"Exposure Series" - Experimenting with different exposure settings on the camera in order to explore, "Why light needs dark".

I had heard about photos being underexposed and overexposed but that was about it, so I began to research.

What is HDR Photography?
by Ferrell McCollough | 20-Feb-2012
HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography is a technique for capturing a much broader tonal range than a digital sensor can record in a single exposure. Simply put, the digital camera sensor is not technically advanced enough to capture the range of light available in nature.
However, for HDR photography multiple exposures of the scene are taken, one image records the brightest areas while another records the darkest areas. These exposures are then loaded into an HDR software, such as Photomatix, and become the building blocks of an image that possesses details throughout.
About the author
Author's website:

Simply put, the digital camera sensor cannot capture the range of light available in nature as the eye can.

"Your eyes are like a wonderful kind of camera.
They take pictures of the world around you and send the pictures to your brain. Your brain works out what your eyes are seeing. This happens from the moment that you open your eyes in the morning to when you close your eyes at night."

Video tutorials on taking photos for HDR



Taking the Photos


Different Exposure Settings

_DSC0957 (2)AIsmall.jpg

_DSC0945 (2)AIsmall.jpg

_DSC0942 (2)AIsmall.jpg

_DSC0958 (2)AIsmall.jpg

_DSC0950 (2)AIsmall.jpg

_DSC0943 (2) AIsmall.jpg

_DSC0952 (2)small.jpg

Accidental Photo

Accidental - Dark to Light

HDR Merging of the Same Photograph Taken at Different Exposure Levels Using Photomatix Pro 4.2.5


Merging of five photographs taken at different exposures. Number 1

_DSC0941 (2)_2 (2)_3 (2)_4 (2)_5 (2)_small.jpg
Merging of Five Photographs

Merging of six photographs taken at different exposures. Number 2

_DSC0955 (2)_56 (2)_57 (2)_58 (2)_59 (2)_60 (2)_small.jpg
Merging of Six Photographs

I was very thrilled with the final photographs so I became curious about layering multiple photos taken with the same exposure. All of the photos used in the following compositions (except one) are those that were taken at the original place I visited. the photo of the printing press was taken in my studio.

Layering of multiple photos taken with the same exposure Number 3 Series

Layering of 2 Photos

aDSC_0155_9_fused2 photossmall.jpg
Number 3 Series 1

bDSC_0179_94_fused2 picturesSmall.jpg
Number 3 Series 2

cDSC_0163_95_fused2 photosSmall.jpg
Number 3 Series 3

Number 3 Series 4

eDSC_0168_82_fused2 photosSmall.jpg
Number 3 Series 5

fDSC_0173_90_tonemapped2 photossmall.jpg
Number 3 Series 6

gDSC_0163_85_95_fused3 photossmall.jpg
Experimenting with Black and White Number 3 Series 7

iDSC_0178_82_84_fused3 picturessmall.jpg
Number 3 Series 8

Layering of 3 Photos

Experimenting with Black and White Number 3 Series 9

Layering of 4 Photos

jDSC_0159_62_76_89_fused4 photossmall.jpg
Experimenting with Black and White Number 3 Series 10

Layering of 5 Photos


My next line of inquiry took me to the night sky. I had thought of taking photos of the night sky earlier but could not get a clear sky until 21st January. I discovered during my research that I needed to use a remote switch cord. I had to learn how to set the camera and where to plug the remote switch.

Where to plug in the cord


The "Main Command Dial" on the camera needs to be turned until the word "bulb" appears.


Half press the shutter button to see the camera settings.


The Photos

Photo 1 was taken at 9.17pm with a time exposure of 24 seconds. The camera was placed face up on a small table, pointing to the sky.


Photo 2 was taken at 9.18pm with a time exposure of 121 seconds. The camera was placed faced up on a small table, pointing to the sky.


Photo 3 was taken at 9.20pm with a time exposure of 71 seconds. The camera was placed on a tripod, pointing to the sky at approximately a 45 degree angle.


Photo 4

Photo 3 was taken at 9.32pm with a time exposure of 81 seconds. The camera was placed on a tripod, pointing to the sky at approximately a 45 degree angle.


Interesting Fact I Learned

If the camera takes a photo with a time exposure of 60 seconds for example, it takes the same length of time to process it.

More Interesting Discoveries

While resizing the photographs in PhotoScape I was curious to see what would happen if I used the Auto Level function on each of the images. To my pleasant surprise, I could see the details of the night sky but the photos looked like they had been taken during the day. Also, I noticed when looking at the original large images that the stars showed up as short lines as opposed to small dots or circles which depicting the movement of the Earth.

Photo 1


Photo 2


Photo 3


Photo 4


Another Discovery

Right clicking on an image will give you the properties of that photo. It even tells you when the photo was taken and with what time exposure.


What I used for the above experiments:-


1. Panasonic DMC-T25

2. Nikon D90

3. Shoot Remote Switch MC-DC2

3. Sony Experia S Phone


1. Photomatix Pro 4.2.5 for layering

2. PhotoScape v3.6.2 for cropping and resizing photos

Amazing images can be created using light and dark.

The following artwork is so powerful because of the lovely balance of light and dark. It has always been a very thought provoking image.


Light and Dark in Images


Statement of Meaning

The outcome of the experiments have demonstrated that light needs darkness in the following ways;

_DSC0952 (2)small.jpg

  • The overexposure displayed in the above photograph clearly showcases that complete light eliminates definition, not merely the definition of the object photographed, but also the very definition or concept of light itself. With darkness defined as an absence of light and colours defined as a degree of darkness (as colour represents an object's complete absorption of all colours of the spectrum except for that colour which is reflected), it becomes clear that without a degree of darkness applied to an image, there is simply no way in which it can be defined. Darkness can provide definition, depth, differentiation, barriers and edges which produce objects as we understand them. In the above photograph as the level of darkness is increased the image becomes more and more defined, however as the image becomes underexposed and darkness takes a stronghold we again lose sight of the image. In this way, it can be argued that lightness and darkness need each other!

aDSC_0155_9_fused2 photossmall.jpg
Number 3 Series 1

  • The multilayered photographs taken at the same exposure whilst producing interesting results did not match the quality and definition of those images consisting of multilayered photographs of different exposures. The reason for this is due to the fact that by mixing images across a wide range of exposures, more dark and light elements were able to combine to produce a more natural, sharp and defined image. This consisted of mixing highly exposed images with a higher quantity of light along with under exposed images with a lower quantity of light, which again helped me to conclude that darkness and light need each other.

_DSC0941 (2)_2 (2)_3 (2)_4 (2)_5 (2)_small.jpg
Merging of Five Photographs

  • Similarly, whilst the very photograph acquired definition due to the presence of darkness, so to can we clearly conclude that without darkness, the concept of light itself would be impossible to define. This is because without darkness there can be no reference point to show that light exists. If everything that you see and photograph was pure white light and there was never an absence of light to any degree, how could one ever come to think of light as anything at all? It is only through the absence of light that light acquires all meaning and purpose.

a_DSC0974_small.jpg b_DSC0974_adjusted_small.jpg
  • Astrophotography is the ability to capture light not seen by the human eye. It is increasing the exposure to pick up more light. The most important lesson derived from this experiment was that darkness is not necessarily the absence of light, but the inability of the human eye to perceive it. This reinforces the concept that there can be light hidden in the darkness and that in many instances darkness and light are simply concepts, interpreted by our brains and our instruments, rather than necessarily being constructs of reality.

Where to from here?

In the following experiment I want to explore texture and see if I can represent light and dark.