Sunday, June 26, 2011

Still Life...on a Challenge!

Okay, by "challenge" I mean one of the photo challenges on dpreview, but I'm a very competitive person and I do my best with an audience. So, I decided to enter a photo on the topic of scotch whiskey. In addition I've been inspired lately by some of the work of John Hedgecoe. I highly recommend his book How to Take Great Photographs. I found it used at a store, but it's not expensive new.

First off, I love scotch with all of my body. I've had the fortune to drink some excellent scotch, and my liquor cabinet is well stocked, so the easy part was getting the props. I looked at the other entries and saw a few that were excellent, but there wasn't much breadth to them. I don't have the flashes or studio to make a great product shot, but I thought that if I grabbed a bottle and glass and set them up somewhere in the house where I could control lighting that I might find a little creativity.

I really should have used my old compact camera to record the "studio" I created. I moved an oak end table into the bathroom, tilted the metal shade of a lamp (compact fluorescent bulb) as a sort of snoot, put that on top of a roll of TP (needed a little height) and started arranging things.

Note: TP rolls are not an effective light stand. I'll come back to that later.

I'll start with my best image, then talk about how I got there:
Tobermory 10-yr from the Isle of Mull
ISO 200  20mm  f/6.3  1.6 sec

I was using my 20mm 1.7, so light didn't need to be a big deal, but I wanted depth of field and was only using one light in the whole room, so all of my exposures were from 1.5-8 seconds. The tripod did the trick, but setting a 2-sec delay on the camera was good enough to eliminate the shake from my touching the shutter button. Who needs to pay for a remote release, huh? Other than that this was pretty darn vanilla. Aim the camera, focus, take a shot, adjust things, take another shot....

Technical stuff. Whatever. The fun part was using the light and the elements at hand. At first I was just arranging things to get good balance, but I saw that I could shine the light either through the bottle or the glass and create a neat effect, so I tried a number of arrangements that way, even not showing the bottle or glass at all. In the end this looked best to me and it is my challenge entry. Wish me luck.

The session ended when the lamp fell of the TP roll, made a huge crash, and I sat stunned waiting for Leah to wake up in her crib and start crying (she was only about 20-ft away, but there were two doors). Thankfully she didn't wake up, so I called it a night and enjoyed a very well earned scotch :)

Next time I do still life photography:
--I will take more photos! I wish I'd just hit the shutter more often
--I will pay more attention to the orientation of the objects, such as the label on the bottle
--I will pay more attention to the background, either adding more of keeping it totally neutral
--I will not put a lamp on something precarious


Samantha said...

Jesse missed out big time when he was just over at your place--he also loves scotch and was quite disappointed when I read your post to him (he was holding the kid at the time) that he didn't know about your well-stocked cabinet! [I'm also surprised it is still well-stocked after Charles' visit, given how much he likes scoth ;-)] You went to quite an effort on your "studio" and it is too bad that you didn't take a photo of that!

Alex B Atterbury said...

Noooo! How did I fail to ply Jesse with scotch?!