52 Projects – Shoot 2 – A Simple Still Life

I have been ridiculously busy these last two weeks. My day job has keep me jumping and kept me away from doing what I love doing! I have to pay those stupid bills and stuff somehow, so I guess I have to actually do my day job until I get “discovered.”

Now that I have gotten my head above water on some other things, I can get back to having fun with my photography project for this year. This post is the second weekend project from the book 52 Weekend Digital Photo Projects. I am trying to complete one of the projects each weekend, but a couple of weekends ago, I actually completed four projects in one weekend.  So, I a little ahead of the game, but that will work!

As I have said before, I’m not going to plagiarize the authors of the book.  I want you to go buy the book and see how they set up the shot.  I am only going to share my approach and results.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember hearing about the artistic form called “still life.”  Maybe it was the art appreciate class I took in Junior High School.  I can’t remember, but it is there. So, when I saw this project in the book I wasn’t particularly excited about it. I have said in other posts, I enjoy being outdoors on a little adventure with my camera and taking nature/landscape photos. I was not terribly interested in being indoors to take pictures.  The example photograph in the book, however, looked pretty cool.  And, I have committed myself to going through this book and attempting every project.

So, here is one way still life photography is defined: a genre of photography used for the depiction of inanimate subject matter, typically a small group of objects. It is the application of photography to the still life artistic style. An example is food photography.

For my background, I went to three or four hobby stores looking for a backdrop that was as similar to the one in the book as possible, but could not find anything that appealed to me. I swung by a department store to purchase something completely different, and as I was passing an aisle, noticed a gift bag with diagonal blue lines.  It was perfect for what I wanted. I wanted to try the technique in the book but did not want to be identical.

At home, I set up the gift bag on a card table and curled it up a wall. I filled a red-wine glass with cranberry juice and positioned it about three inches from the wall. I took several test photos and was not happy with the lighting. So, I opened my studio light and positioned it directly over my subject.  I found this studio light for $5 at a local thrift store. I bought a 5500k daylight bulb, and it works perfect. Initially, I set up the camera perpendicular to the subject, but, again, did not like the composition. The curvature of the blue lines did not pop. So, I moved the camera and used the blue lines as leading lines, which curved away from the subject as they moved past.

I shot in 100 ISO and experimented with several f-stops. In the end, not surprisingly, the smaller apertures were the better photos. I shot several in HDR to see how they would come out. Also, I used various slide-in color filters as an experiment with color to see what would happen.

Here is a picture of my setup:

Shot with my trusty iPhone 5.

Here are the results!

I fully enjoyed this weekend project. As I move through this book, I find that my photography skills are definitely growing! I highly recommend buying this book and having some fun.

There were three things I learned that will be helpful in the future. There was a blown out reflection of the studio light in the glass. I have to pay better attention to reflections!  Second, I used cold cranberry juice, which caused condensation on the outside of the glass. It took a while for it to dissipate. For a time-conscious person like me, it was aggravating. Third, depth of field is important for this type of shot. You need to be f/5.6 or smaller to get the better results.

On to the next project!

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