Photographing Still Life Part II

About three months ago I wrote an article about my work with still life objects. I’ve been continuing photographing still life since then and experimenting with different ways of post processing the images. In this post I will show some of my more recent works. Click on the images to view larger version.

In this image I went with simplicity in shapes but added more interest using texture.
Still Life with bottle and wine glass

Here, on the contrary, I wanted to create a more complex image with additional elements. My main problem was to choose these elements so that they would fit harmoniously into my composition. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether I succeeded or not. 
Still Life with bottles, mandarins, and leafs

I especially like this image, mostly because it wasn’t easy to come up with the idea for it. I started it by trying various compositions of glasses and the bottle, and various liquid levels. After I achieved something that looked good to me, I still felt that something was missing from the image. So I looked around for an item to add, and decided to add the two marbles. But I needed an aesthetic way to place them, and after a while I solved this puzzle with a spoon. I made a couple of shots and still wasn’t completely satisfied with the results. Suddenly it hit me that these marbles on the spoon look like musical notes! To make this idea more visible I added musical sheet to the background and the photo frame, and finally I felt the image was complete.
Still Life with bottle and glasses

 

This is my best still life image to date. It has an interesting idea and a nice execution. In addition this image was accepted to 1x.com !!! It was my dream to have my image featured there, and I finally achieved it. You can see it on 1x.com here.
Still Life with bottles

 

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Photographing Still Life

For the last several months I’ve been focusing on photographing still life images. I don’t know exactly why but I am drawn to still life photography. I like to create various compositions putting emphasis on shapes, light, and color. In this article I’ll share some of my creations and talk you through my thought process. The images that you will see here where created by me during the course of the last five months.

I started experimenting with simple shapes and gradually added more components using bottles and other items I had at home. My first images consisted of two objects and were shot in black and white. This way I was able to concentrate purely on shape and light. Here is one such example, which I liked. There is a contrast between one dark, “solid” object on the foreground and one light, almost transparent object in the background. I tried intuitively to place them in a way that would look interesting and pleasing to me.

Still life with bottle and vase in black and white by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

Next I added one more object, some color, and changed the lighting. The reason I changed the lighting is for the color to bee seen, but I still wanted to have shadow in the image. This way I aimed to bring a certain mood into the image. Looking at it on my computer screen I felt that something was missing, tried to add texture, and liked the result. This image is still very simplistic, a building block in my studies of still life photography.

Still life with bottle and vase in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

I kept on trying various compositions, and here’s my attempt to add some humor. There’s not much sense to it, but I like this drunk zebra 🙂

Still life with bottles and toy horse in black and white by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

The image below was inspired by images of Victoria Ivanova . She has some very cool conceptual still life images with pears (and other items). I call this image “Examination”. Will let you figure this one out for yourself 🙂

Still life with bottles and pears in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

Concept imagery is pretty difficult to come up with, and I didn’t have much luck with it just yet. In the meantime I continued to focus on form, light and color. In my next composition I wanted to emphasize a single color, so it would become the whole theme of the image. It doesn’t mean that there is only one color but that it is the vividly dominant one, so there’s no mistake as to which one is it.

Still life with bottle vase apple and glass in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

I also tried to change backgrounds and match them to my subjects. One of the things I learned from the photo below is that I don’t like empty things. I didn’t notice this at first, but when I looked at the final image I kept thinking that something was missing, and finally I realized that all the items were empty!

Still life with bottles and glasses in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

I didn’t repeat that mistake in my next image. In this image I made an emphasis on color. Seeing the final image I saw that vivid colors add a lot of interest to it. Ideally, of course, it should also be the shape, the light, and the meaning of the image together to form a good one.

Still life with bottles glass and fruits in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

The image below is the most recent one I created. When working on its’ composition I felt that only glass objects with (or without) liquid created a lacking picture. I tried to add various objects but nothing worked. Then I went out to the garden and looked around, saw this sprout and tried to add it to my composition. Finally I got what I needed, and the image was complete. There is an interesting “cross-balance” (term I thought of just now 🙂 ) in this photograph: A diagonal line of three filled objects from top left to bottom right, and another diagonal line of two empty objects from top right to bottom left.

Still life with bottles glass and flora in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

A few technical notes regarding my lighting setup: I generally had two lights. One is located below the table on which I created my compositions. That light was lighting the background and adding the glow to the bottles from behind. Another one is located to the left of the camera and just a bit above the bottles. On it I placed polarizing gel and also used a polarizing filter on the lens. I turned the polarizer on the lens so that the reflections of the light source in the bottles would not be visible. In some cases I created two exposures of the same composition – one with reflections and another without. Later in Photoshop I loaded the two exposures as layers, completely masked out the exposure with reflections, and only revealed the reflections that I wanted to be seen.

Your comments, questions, and thoughts are highly appreciated!

Photographing still life in studio – how to shoot reflective surfaces

Have you ever tried to shoot still life with bottles or any other glass object? If you did then you know that it is difficult. It is difficult because glass reflects bloody everything. Theoretically I knew that, but I totally forgot about it when I suddenly got the urge to shoot me some bottles 🙂

I realized that only after first few clicks of the shutter, when looking at the back of my camera I saw reflection of me, my camera, ceiling and most of other irrelevant stuff in my studio. Then I started thinking what can I do to eliminate all the reflections.

First thing I did was to turn off all ceiling lights, leaving only modeling lights from the strobes to light the studio. It helped, but I didn’t want the strobes to be reflected in the bottles either. My solution was to place main light under the table pointed at the background, so the main light itself wasn’t visible at all and the bottles were lit from behind. I still had to add some light from the front, and so I did.

In the photo below you can see the reflection of the front soft box ( I cleaned it a bit in post, but it is still visible). This photo is a composite, in which bottles were shot fist and then I shot two additional photos while holding the grapes with two fingers at each side of the bottles. Having camera on tripod all the images were aligned to begin with. Later I loaded them as layers in Photoshop, and masked out my hands from the grapes.

Still life with bottles and grapes

For the next image I didn’t want to have any reflections on the bottle and glass at all, but I still needed to light the vase from the front. Since the vase wasn’t transparent, when I only lit the scene from behind, it was almost totally black. Therefore, to create the image below I shot two photos – first only with back lighting, and the second with additional light from the high left. In Photoshop, again, I loaded the two images as layers into a single file, and used the bottles from the first image and vase from the second.

Still life with bottles

It took me a while to create the image below, and not due to technicalities. On the vast plains of the Internet I saw a few creative still life photos with pears, and felt like trying something creative with them myself. It turned out to be not simple at all (not that I thought it would)! At first I just tried to arrange pears and other items without any intention – just to make something nice. After about an hour I realized that it doesn’t work. Then I put everything aside, and just sat on the couch and thought about what I really wanted to create. I thought about what happened lately in my life and in the world, and little by little ideas started popping into my head and I ended up with the image below, which I call “Examination”

Examination

 The background texture was added later in Photoshop, if you were wondering 🙂

P. S. There is one really cool way to get rid of the reflections of your light sources in the bottles (or any reflective surface), but it requires additional equipment, part of which I didn’t have. You can buy sheets of polarizing gels and put them on your light sources. Also you’ll have to put a polarizing filter on your lens. Then by adjusting the polarizing filter on the lens you will be able to completely eliminate the reflections.

Your comments  and thoughts on this post and my works are very much appreciated, so don’t hesitate to write them in the comment section below !

Flowers Macro Photography Tips

Sometimes I see a photograph, and I wonder how it was done, what tricks or special equipment (if at all) did the photographer use to achieve the result? In most cases there is  no way of asking him, and I have to guess and speculate on how it was done.

A few days ago I did a few flower macro shots, and posted one of them in a couple of forums. In the responses I’ve received I saw some questions as to how I did it, so I decided to write a post about it.

Flower. Macro Photography

  • I used Canon 100 mm f2.8 Macro lens, a light tent, and two flashes – the main one from the right side, and another flash from the left side. I set the second flash to be much weaker, so it would make the back side of the flower just a little brighter.
  • I didn’t want big depth of field so I set my aperture to f5. On the contrary, I wanted to be able to control what exactly will be in focus.
  • The shutter speed was 1/200 of a second, but it is not important in this case because I didn’t use ambient light – only strobes.
  • Since I had total control of my lighting, and I could set it to be as bright as I wanted to, I used ISO of 100, the lowest ISO on my Canon 40D. As you probably know, the lower your ISO setting, the less noise you’ll get in your photo.
  • Of course I used tripod. This is an important point. You might think that shooting at speed of 1/200sec doesn’t require the use of tripod, and under certain circumstances you might be right. For example when using wide angle lens with fairly closed aperture. But in my case I used telephoto lens (100mm) with f5, which means that even the slightest movement will shift the focus from where I want it to be to another random location. So, the conclusion is that in macro shots tripod is almost always an essential piece of equipment.

As you can see on the shot I sprayed the flower with water. Water drops are a very nice touch to many natural subjects, not only flowers. Sometimes photographers photograph the water drops on their subject in such a way that a reflection of something would be visible in the drops, and it makes for great images. In my case I wanted to achieve the exact opposite – I didn’t want any reflections in the water drops in order to focus the attention of the viewer on the flower, and to achieve that I photographed my flower in a white light tent.

And finally, the background. In the shot above and in one of additional examples from that photo-shoot below you will see that my background wasn’t plain white. But what was it? It is easy – I used one of my calendars with colorful photos as the background. When shooting macro, DOF is so tiny that a photograph placed 30 cm behind the subject becomes totally indistinguishable collection of colorful splashes, which makes for a nice background.

Below you can see a few more examples from that shoot

Flower. Macro Photography Flower. Macro Photography

Flower. Macro Photography >Flower. Macro Photography

I hope you learned something from my experience.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.

Cheers,
Greg.

P.S. For those of you who wonder, the flower’s name is Morning Glory

Symmetry and Abstract

Hello Everybody!

This is another photo-sharing post. Recently I had the time to revive my small home studio, so while I was at it, I took some photos… actually I took a lot of photos, most of which aren’t worthy of sharing.

Here’s the only two I liked:

This photo was taken inside light tent with two flashes (one from each side). I call it “Almost  Symmetrical”. Nothing much to it, just having fun 🙂

Almost Symmetrical

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And I also liked this abstract photo, which is really a closeup of glass filled with cold bubbling mineral water, with yellow light in background.

Abstract

Click on the photo to enlarge.

As always your comments are highly appreciated.

See you next time!

Greg