Friday, January 22, 2016

Week Three - 2016 in Photographs - A Week of Still Lifes

Day 16

 The weather was awful and it was wonderful to have an excuse to work inside with the camera.  Painters popularized still lifes in the days before cameras. The story is they could not afford models so they assembled things on a table and painted away. Art lessons frequently involve the painting of various objects. It is a great way to practice shading and shadows and how to give a three dimensional object volume on a two dimensional surface. 

It is also a good exercise for a photographer because you have control over light and ergo shadow. And you have control of content. What photographer has not wanted the straggler in an elk cattle herd to move just a bit to the left or hold that position until the sun comes out from behind the cloud.

This week includes two types of still lifes or three if you count the Alternate Day 17. A still life is by definition the depiction of inanimate subject matter, most, typically a small grouping of objects. Still life photography, more so than other types of photography, such as landscape or portraiture, gives the photographer more leeway in the arrangement of design elements within the composition. I divide still lifes by whether I picked the arrangement or I found the arrangement which may have only needed a tweak or two. Day 16 fits into the latter category. I only moved a slightly out of place grass piece or two and waited for the light to be right.

Day 15

Day 15 is an arrangement completely of my making. I chose the objects, assembled the platform and draped the cloth and positioned the objects. And even turned the platform a bit to take total advantage of the ambient light in the studio. The result had a very paintery feel so I used a post processing filter which simulated brush strokes.

Day 21 was just there. It had been just there for weeks. The snow a bit less. I just stepped out of my truck with camera in hand and snapped the picture. I just, after weeks of parking my car there, finally realized the artistic quality of two logs buried in snow to the right level.

Day 21

I have always thought there is a bit of accidental luck to photography. It can be so much being in the right place at just the right time. And it seems that hold true for still lifes also. Take the two photographs below. You may recognize some of the same objects as are in the photograph Day 15. Just a the addition of a cut crystal vase and another ornament. All artistically rearranged. Then my cat, Thicke stuck his head in.

Day 17 Alternate

Day 17

I, of course, was in a panic that he would rearrange things. But not such a panic that I didn't depress the shutter button. He was so very still checking out his reflection in the silver plate I maintain he was another inanimate object. BTW he broke nothing. These two still lifes looked great in black and white, which is unique to photography or etchings.

If you know you are going to be treating a still life photograph as black and white or even sepia you do not have to be careful about the colors of the objects you use. But frankly I think that is much of the fun especially with reflective objects which will pick up the colors around them. And playing around with the colors as well as the shapes and weight of the objects adds another dimension of complexity to the process.

Day 18

 If you are new to still life photography you might want to begin with a few easy pieces like Day 18 above. My friend Terry Atkin Rowe is a master of this sort of still life. I frankly love the complex; an arrangement you can stare at for hours and constantly find something new in it. This is the way I don't declutter my studio. It is future art.

Day 19
 So I might begin with a few objects, some of which were already there like the vase and the brass platter and the ceramic bowl (containing vinegar to freshen the room). Then to fill space I add a couple of things. Then a few more like the chunk of driftwood from the Colorado River. Then below the decorative balls. And change the light by putting cardboard behind the screen. And pull in a couple more candles.

Day 20

To come up with these seven photographs I took maybe a hundred. There are others which I can rework with software. Day 20 has writing showing on the cardboard. I could crop it out or clone it out or see if another digital image of this arrangement does not show it. Even after you take the picture there is arranging which can be done.

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