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




Still Life – The Final Take

Having gone around in circles trying to come up with a worthy Still Life shoot I was a bit disappointed with my initial choices – Vintage Traveler below, my O’Keeffee-esque (previous post) and a few others I won’t bother to show you.



I felt I needed to carry on researching and that is when I came across the work of Jos Van Riswick – a self-taught Dutch painter inspired by great old masters like Rembrandt and Heda, but also inspired by new realists such as Dick Ket, Jan Mankes and Henk Helmantel.

Riswick follows the traditional methods of painting to make sure his work has that ‘oldie’ feeling. He paints mainly portraits and still life.

Image result for jos van riswick

Because his work is so precise and yet so simple I decided I’d set up my Still Life Scene using simple props, simple subjects and mix a few different textures.  The lighting at the college studio did wonders for my shoot too 🙂

At first we tried to set the light falling on the right and left side of my set but I didn’t think it captured the mood, the shadows I was looking for. We then turned off the light to the right of the set, turned down the power and also carefully positioned the light stand to mimic the light one would naturally get by the window.

It was exactly what I was looking for. The shadows fell in a way that it added to the mood of the shoot without making the set look too dark.

Here are some of my final studio pictures.

I’m not sure yet which one I will select as my final choice, perhaps my classmates help me with that.

Paula, x



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

Exploring ideas for Assignment Two

During the coming term we will be studying Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology and as part of it, we were already given our next assignment.
Assignment Two is divided into 3:
  • Still Life
  • Portrait
  • Cruel and Tender
By Mrs T Photography

At first glance, the titles sound a little scary but as I started researching I began to formulate some interesting ideas. In fact, the new assignment sounds so exciting that I can hardly wait to get back to class.

For Still Life, I might explore and attempt to set up a Georgia O’Keefee-esque photo shoot.  I saw her exhibition a little while back at the Tate Modern and was mesmerised by her work with still flowers.
The way in which O’Keefee used nature’s amazing shapes, highlighted its colours and added a hint of subtle eroticism is nothing short of genious. Some have referred her to the ‘Lady Gaga’ of her time in the way she was so ahead of her own audience.  More about her later!
As for Portrait Using Classical Paintings as inspiration, I must confess Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring fascinates me. I love the mystery surrounding this girl. To this day  her identity is unknown.

According to the BBC Johannes Vermeer is recognised as a master of light who specialised in painting women in sparse domestic interiors, and his pictures are prized in part because they are often suffused with mystery”.

Over the years The Girl with Pear Earrings Painting has been used as inspiration to many portrait photos, books and movies. Could it be my inspiration too? We shall see.

As for the portrait part of the assignment, I might explore “The Girl with a Pearl Earring”
Now for the most difficult part… Cruel and Tender. I am still undecided about the right way to interpret this and to photograph it.
Some ideas that come to mind are:
  • Alzheimers & Dementia – cruel brain disease that robs us from our loved ones while they are still ‘with us’. No amount of tenderness can jiggle their memory enough.
  • Rehabilitation of Military Personnel injured in action –  Once the physical injuries heal, the endless battle for spiritual healing begins. Could tenderness of those around our heros save them? Michael Stokes is an American contemporary photographer, best known for his controversial photographs of veterans who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Animal Cruelty or Tenderloins – I’m all for defending animal rights BUT I love my food and my meat! Some feel so strongly about how animals are ‘slaughtered’ so we can all enjoy our T-Bone steaks, bacon, sausages that they decide to be vegetarians. I’m not sure I will ever be able to go that far. That said, if I know animals are killed for ‘superfluous’ reasons like shark soup, ivory, shoes (I’m thinking alligator’s!), etc then yes I draw the line!

If you have managed to read my blog post up until now, wow I’m impressed!  Well done you 🙂

Thanks for sticking with me!

MrsT, x