Friday, January 25, 2008

Still life

One of the most frequently painted subjects is the still life. Cezanne, Matisse and van Gogh all painted still life compositions at some time. The same is true of photographers, too - many photographers have fashioned a still life at one time or another.

I like still life photography for several reasons. As a photographer, you can learn about composition, lighting, colour, texture and creativity all at once. And your subjects will sit uncomplainingly for hours while you move, arrange and flash them to your heart's content. Try that with family members!

I had two main objects with this image. I wanted to show the etched glass bowl to its best effect, and I wanted some colour inside it. The colour part was pretty easy - after experimenting with different fruit I settled on the navel orange and the granny smith apple for their contrasting colours.

The glass proved to be somewhat more difficult. Front-on lighting pretty much destroyed the intricate leaf pattern on the glass. I knew that I would need some side-lighting to bring out the texture. But lighting from one side only proved ineffective, because of the shadows that formed. I ended up with cross-lighting - two flashes at 45 degrees to the line from camera to subject; one on each side of the fruit; placed so that no light would spill into the lens.

I also included a third light at the top of the fruit to help with the three-dimensional modelling I wanted for the fruit. Fortunately for today's photographer, the most recent flashes are pretty smart. The Nikon system will wirelessly fire several flashes at once from the camera's pop-up internal flash, and calculate the necessary flash duration for your exposure at the same time. No calculations, no cables - couldn't be more straight-forward.

EXIF: Nikon D200; Nikkor 17-55mm DX; ISO 320; 1/250 sec; F4.


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