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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ ) 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!

Autumn in National Rhododendron Gardens

Autumn is a very special time of the year. I feel that it is time for relaxation and contemplation. Walking under the reddish-orange trees in the parks, it invites me to think about things. Different things.ย  Autumn is also a very beautiful time of the year. But to be honest I have to say that any time of the year is beautiful, you just have to look for the beauty in it.

Autumn in National Rhododendron Gardens, Australia 1
While we were walking the gardens, a girl passed by. She fitted so perfectly the scenery with her raincoat and umbrella. For a while we walked behind her and I took some photos.
Autumn in National Rhododendron Gardens, Australia 2
Botanical gardens offer a wide variety of flora, sometimes creating very interesting contrasts of sizes, shapes, and colors.
Autumn in National Rhododendron Gardens, Australia 3
After a while we saw this girl again, sitting quietly and watching the lake. I wonder what she was thinking about…
Autumn in National Rhododendron Gardens, Australia 4
And here is the lake that she was watching. What can be more beautiful than colorful reflections in the still waters?
Autumn in National Rhododendron Gardens, Australia 5
The gardens were so beautifully that I couldn’t stop taking photos. The colors hypnotized me.
Autumn in National Rhododendron Gardens, Australia 6ย Autumn in National Rhododendron Gardens, Australia 7ย Autumn in National Rhododendron Gardens, Australia 8
If you enjoy autumn and photography you can understand ๐Ÿ™‚
Autumn in National Rhododendron Gardens, Australia 9 Autumn in National Rhododendron Gardens, Australia 10 Autumn in National Rhododendron Gardens, Australia 11
Hope you enjoyed this little excursion to the National Rhododendron Gardens. Please let me know in the comments below!

Guy Gowan’s Free Fuse Tv

If you are into photography and Photoshop in particular, and you never heard of Guy Gowan, you really should. Guy has a 30+ years of experience in the imaging industry, and his Photoshop workflow is pretty unique. He has a subscription based website, where you can buy an annual subscription and get access to his 100+ tutorials “teaching the art of image processing” as he writes on his website.

I was subscribed for a full year to his website and learned a lot! However, this post is not about the tutorials. Recently Guy added another cool and free (!) feature to his website – Fuse. He describes it as “A new free to view programme featuring new technology, techniques, ideas and personalities from the imaging world”. Basically what Guy does is he puts out every week or so a new Fuse episode, in which he talks about gadgets and various creative things he found on the web. Since Guy is a very smart and creative person himself, naturally he chooses very interesting stuff to talk about, and I find these episodes very interesting. In these days of information overload, I use Guy’s Fuse as a very delicate filter for what to watch and what information to take in.

If I’ve got you interested, you can see the latest Fuse episode here . If you decide to subscribe to Guy’s tutorials and webcasts, please enter my email into the “referrer email” field (greg at photopathway dot com) to show your appreciation ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

 

London Bridge Panorama, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

About a week ago I took my family for a short 5 day vacation. We decided to go for a drive along the famous Great Ocean Road here in Victoria. Of course I had my DSLR with me, however I didn’t use it during the noon hours of sunny days. I used my iPhone instead. Here is a panorama I took from the London Bridge viewing platform.

London Bridge, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

London Bridge, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

P.S. The photo from the previous post (Apollo Bay) was also taken on this trip.

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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

ย The background texture was added later in Photoshop, if you were wondering ๐Ÿ™‚

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