Wednesday 14 November 2012

Chiaroscuro: The Power Of Light-Dark

On my Facebook page, I have already posted a few examples of chiaroscuro photographs that I made some time ago in Siem Reap and thought I'd write a post about them. Chiaroscuro photographs are a natural for the temples of Angkor Wat; an ideal place to apply this technique with its dark-light ambiance.

Chiaroscuro is an Italian coinage word which literally means 'light-dark', and is a way to enhance a scene by placing light and darkness next to each other. I don't want to be wordy, but penumbra can also be present in chiaroscuro scenes, as in the lower folds of the monk's robes in the top photograph.

Provided the right lighting situation presents itself, or is set up (as most of these accompanying photographs are) with one source of light , one can achieve the effect by exposing for the absolute highest tones in the image. I generally do it by using spot metering and opting for manual exposure.

I was also interested to know that there is a technique called tenebrism, (also from the Italian tenebroso or dark/unclear, which is a style of painting using very pronounced chiaroscuro. Meedo Taha, a photographer, film maker and architect (and a Facebook friend) reminded me of Caravaggio, who is credited with the invention of the style.

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