Sea Blue Lens

Movie Night


Through a lens darkly

Lesson six in my current (soon to be over, I’m sad to say) Find Your Eye e-course asks us to read a little about cinematography, then watch a movie known for its cinematography. The idea was to see what we could observe about how various techniques were used in filming the movie, and how we might use them in our photography.

Kat provided a link to a list of “Top 10 Cinematographic Masterpieces.” When I reviewed the list, I was surprised to find that I had actually seen 7 of the 10 films listed. Of the three I hadn’t seen before, two were not readily available to me, so I went to the library and grabbed the one they did have: The Godfather. Shocking, I know. Almost 40 years after its release, I had never seen this iconic movie that people of my generation have been talking about and quoting from for most of my adult life.

The first thing I noticed was the color. The entire film has a faded, warm, slightly-sepia tone, which enhanced the period feel. The impression given was that it had been filmed in the 1940s and the film had faded or color-shifted, as old photos do. Much of the movie was very dark, and I don’t mean the storyline. Interiors were dimly lit, and often the backgrounds disappeared in the gloom, focusing attention on the faces of those featured in the scene. Even those faces were often darkly shadowed, as if illuminated only by dim room lighting.

The parts of the movie that were set outside of New York had a very different look. The California and Nevada segments still had that faded, period feeling, but they were much brighter in contrast to the dark New York scenes. At one point, the setting unexpectedly changed from grim, dark New York City to the Italian countryside. The atmosphere changed completely, and became bright, with open vistas and beautiful scenery — accompanied by the swelling love theme, the first time I really noticed the movie’s music. It was a shocking transition. Suddenly it felt as if I were watching a completely different movie. When the story cut back to shadowy New York, the foreshadowing was clear.

I’m not quite sure how to apply my observations of the cinematography of The Godfather to my own photography. The dark, gritty noir look is not a style that appeals to me much, though I have in the past used darkish indoor lighting for some portraits that I like quite a bit. Overall, though, the style of those Italian scenes resonate much more with me. I suppose they would, since I am primarily a nature and landscape photographer. Perhaps the strongest takeaway for me is just how much lighting does affect the mood of a photograph.

Home Safe

One movie that I remember purely for its cinematography, and that I do relate to photographically, is Days of Heaven. I saw it back in the early 80s, on a rather primitive color TV. I hated the story, but I was absolutely riveted all the way to the bitter end by the cinematography. In preparing for this assignment, I googled the film and clicked on Image Results. It still takes my breath away.

The images below are definitely more Days of Heaven than The Godfather. But they do use light to capture a mood.

Morning Haze

Still Standing

Last Light

12 thoughts on “Movie Night

  1. Love your images, how you captured the light to tell a story. Beautifully done!

  2. Lee,
    I am really moved by your first photo – the dark interior framing the world outside. Just barely seeing the special items gathered on the windowsill, the hanging art piece, the curve of a lampshade, the silhouetted lace. There is real emotion in this image that does tell a story.
    I enjoyed reading your reactions to the movie and to cinematography. It is clear from your images how important light is to what you capture.

  3. Light definitely sets the mood of a photograph or a movie, great observation. Also fantastic that you noticed what type of light and mood you like to find in your work. Your images are great examples to go along with this exploration! They tell us all a little bit more about you. I love the light coming through those lace curtains. Beautiful image!

  4. The light is what it is all about. Especially since cameras render light differently than the human eye sees it. Great job Lee!!! Chase the light!

  5. Beautiful captures. i have never watched the Godfather in its entity yet. Sad but true. I especially love your “”Still Standing”, pretty “Morning Haze” and your first shot.

  6. I guess now is confession time, I’ve never seen the Godfather either! Light was the first thing I noticed in the movie I watched. I’m becoming more aware of the use of light in photography! I love the lace curtain image! Love the composition and the mood it creates and the gorgeous light!! Wonderful post!

  7. I am so glad I found your sight, through a blog by Munchow. Your photography is amazing and your lessons valuable to an aspiring photographer like me. Thank you, I will be reading all your posts in the next few days.

  8. Dear Sea Blue Lens, I have nominated your blog for The Versatile Blogger Award. Your blog has really been an inspiration. If you visit the link you can find the details.

  9. Hey Neighbor….The Godfather is one of my fave movies of all time. I should go back and watch it AGAIN….I’ve seen it several times, and note the things you noticed. I’m so glad you’ve now joined the Godfather club.
    Beautiful window shots. I especially like that 2nd one. And me thinks those might be some desert-ish images you chose to share. I think you’ll find your warm dry weather niche just fine.
    I owe you an email….will send soon.

  10. I love Last Night, and Morning Haze. and I’ve always wanted to watch Days of Heaven but still haven’t. it’s going on my list now. if something doesn’t make my list, it won’t have a chance of getting done. my favorite though is Through a lens darkly. it’s moody and introspective and gives me, the viewer, a opening for hope to come through. thanks for stopping by my blog and saying hello – I truly appreciate it. I’m going to explore your own now…
    happy day to you.

  11. Watched the Godfather so long ago I don’t remember it! Good for you to make it to the end though. I love your window images. This assignment was very interesting and so is Light. Enjoyed reading this post.

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