Still Life – The Final Blog Post

A Set Up Inspired by a Classical Painting

Further to my last post on Still Life (see here) I wanted to write one last post on this subject before I moving on just to remind me how far I have come on this project, what I have learned and how I can use this experience in future shoots of a similar nature.

The Research:

It took me pretty much the entire term to explore this theme and find a Classical Painting of Still Life that inspired me. At first I considered Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, then thought of Cezanne’s Apples but nothing was grabbing me.

Having seen Georgia O’Keefee’s work at the Tate Modern I kept thinking about doing my own shoot based on her incredible work and decided to attempt a photographic interpretation of it at home to see whether or not it would work.

With that in mind, and having done a fair amount of research online, I visited New Covent Garden Flower Marked looking for fresh flowers that resembled the female reproductive organ. Although there was plenty of choice I decided to buy Giant Italian Poppies, Orchids, Parrot Tulips and Single Tulips to carry out my test shoot at home.

Armed with a Small Portable Home Studio and 2 lights I set up the scene of my first attempt. It certainly took a fair few shots for me to figure out the best way to illuminate my subject and dramatise certain elements of the shoot i.e. the fine hairs on the petals, the way the light cast on the petals creating curves and shadows in between the petals.

At first the light was too harsh so I adjusted the strength of my flash and eventually got rid of it altogether, choosing instead a longer exposure. To avoid any possible camera shake I used a tripod and timer.

I was very pleased indeed with the result BUT realised that whilst the shoot had been a success it didn’t adhere to the assignment and it was not a true Still Life Shoot. It was time to reconsider my thinking and refocus on the assignment brief.

Time was certainly flying by and Easter was fast approaching. That’s when I decided to look into still life that included images of eggs and found there was plenty to use as inspiration.

The Technical and Practical Aspects of the Assignment:

I set the scene at college with a range of eggs in different colours and sizes. I also got fresh pasta, a pasta-making machine and a few props. My set up was meant to be soft, simple, classical and without too many distractions. I wanted to work with materials that would not cause reflection. I also wanted to include texture and muted tones in my photos.

For studio light I used a large soft box, turned the light down and asked help in partially blocking it to make it look like my set up was by a window.

Health and Safety was also paramount in this exercise as there was hazard everywhere i.e. wires, hot bulbs, trip hazards, etc. All was tucked away and kept safe during all shoots. In class Health & Safety is always a concerned with so many of us working in what can be almost pitch black. Before turning the main lights of the studio off we always make sure any potential hazard is dealt with swiftly and accordingly.

Louise the Photographer in Chief1

As far as self-evaluation is concerned, I had to print my photos a couple of times but eventually I was very pleased with the result and my college mates decided which photo I should submit as my final image.

I certainly came to understand studio lighting a little more and actually took to helping my fellow students with their own lighting and set up. Standing back from shooting to help others with their work was actually great experience for me as I could focus on the set up and not in taking photos.

It is pretty clear that no matter how much research I do or how many photography books I read, nothing beats getting ‘my hands dirty’ regardless of whether or not I am taking my own photos or helping others take theirs. All experience is great experience not matter now mundane it seems.

There is something new to learn every day, with every shoot and I still have plenty to learn.

Thank for reading,

Paula, x

P1, P2, P3, P4, M1, M2, M3

 

References:

Changing the way we look at things…

… will change the things we see

 

Take Georgia O’Keefe Flower Paintings for example, what do you see, flowers or the female reproductive organ? If you are anything like me I’d say you can’t help but see a bit of both.

When I saw Georgia O’Keefe’s exhibition at Tate Modern November last year I was totally taken by her work, I couldn’t stop staring at her paintings.

The way she captured every little detail with her paint brush was, to me at least, nothing short of mesmerising. I was in awe. Her use of light was not as impressive as Cezanne’s, Rembrant’s or Van Gogh’s yet her delicate work was striking.

Now that spring is nearly here I visited Covent Garden Flower Market in Vauxhall and picked up a handful of flowers of my own to try and challenge the way we see them. Here’s a glimpse of what I shot last night as practice for my Studio Session tomorrow.

It is fairly easy to identify the Tulip. Can you guess what the other bud is? No? I couldn’d either and I was shocked to find out it was a Poppy! Yes, Poppy buds!!! The flower market seller assured me they will open up in a couple of days and fill my vase with amazing Giant Italian Poppies.

I can hardly wait to see them 🙂

Paula, x

Cruel and Tender… trial shots

After visiting Kingston Cemetery & Crematorium last week I went back there today to take my first set of photos for the Cruel and Tender Assignment.

I felt very welcome and was blessed with the most gorgeous golden light so I decided to start by walking around the grounds, getting to know the area, finding the right angles, direction of light, etc.

My reason for choosing to photograph Kingston Cemetery & Crematorium was based on the inevitable feeling of loss we all experience at some point in our lives. That, in my view, represents the ‘Cruel’ part of my assignment.

While spending some time talking to the staff there and getting to know what goes on behind the scenes, I learned that their role is much greater than just that of carrying on with the tasks involving the actual cremation or indeed grave digging.

Their role involves the utmost respect for the grieving families, sure the chapel needs to be pristine for each service, the flowers carefully positioned, the right music ready to play BUT what struck me the most was the incredibly composed way in which the staff conducts themselves in the face of the pain of those saying their final goodbyes. This, in my view, is what cover the ‘Tender’ part of my assignment.

The tenderness and kindness needed to handle such raw emotions was evident all around me. Talking to a member of staff I learned of the trust and understanding that is built over time between  them and the relatives who come to visit KCC.

 

From a more technical point of view, visiting KCC shortly after sunrise (8:30ish in the morning) gave the an amazing opportunity to capture some rather atmospheric shots with the grounds bathed in a mixture of golden light, frost and lifting mist. The location was full of beautiful shadows evoking a sense of peace, sad, eerie beauty.

kingston-crematorium4

 

To photograph inside the chapel, I started by  using my faithful 10-18mm wide angle lens but I felt that my 24-105mm lens gave me the advantage of larger aperture, reduced noise and allowed for more clarity. That said, I would have benefited from taking the shots with a tripod and the reason for not using it was that this was my first visit to the chapel and I had no idea of what to expect.

By the end of my visit I was pleased to have chosen this location and am very much looking forward to going back for my next set of photographs. This time I want to visit at the end of the day so I can shoot the light from a different direction.

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