ePHOTOzine member Janet Walters, aka chase
, photographs fantastic still lifes and protraits. Here is her story.
How did you get into photography?
I have always had some sort of camera from childhood, and things just sort of evolved from there. As technology moved along, I tried to 'keep up'. Then a colleague at work showed me his Nikon D70 several years ago with lenses that I could change easily. Wow, I was hooked!
What draws you to still life and portrait photography?
I think the answer to that one has to be 'light'. I love tinkering with different light sources and a still life does what it says on the tin, it stays still. That way I can play around with the light for as long as I like. Still life can also be a 'cheap' way to do photography as I can use things in and around my home or garden.
Then I progressed to collecting interesting bits and bobs from car boot sales and my Mum's attic which was great fun and which for me is what photography is all about. I like old stuff too. It tends to have great textures and meaning, especially if it's something I can remember from my childhood. Old things just 'feel nice'.
As far as potraiture is concerned, again, lighting a subject in different ways fascinates me. The effects can be so very different on the same subject and can change the look, feel and atmosphere of an image in an instant.
People are fascinating, the looks and expressions on their faces. The emotion in their eyes is hard to capture but when I do, I know I have 'got it'. It doesn't happen all the time but when it does it's a 'wow' moment.
'Megan's Pearls' by chase
Talk us through your equipment.
Currently I own a Nikon D300 and I love it to bits. It's a good size for me to handle but nice and solid to use. It handles low light very well and has a good range of frames per second (I use continuous shooting for photographing the birds in my garden) I also like the bracketing feature, as I can get up to 9 bracketed images, which is great for HDR.
I also have a Nikon D2X which I still use from time-to-time. It is a bit heavier for me to use hand-held but great on a tripod. It makes a nice reliable back up.
I also have a Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8, a fab little lens, especially for portrait work. It is very useful for still life too, especially if I am working in a confined space at home, as there is no need to shift the camera around. It is rarely off the camera these days.
As well as this I have a Nikon 18-200mm. It is a nice compact lens, not too heavy to use hand-held, and very versatile. I also love my Nikon MC-30 remote control. I wouldn't be without it!
Why Nikon over any other brand?
Nikons are very well specified cameras. I like the FPS rate and the ability to have 9 frames available to use for bracketing. It is easy to use, and nice to hold. Nikon just feels right in my hands.
Talk us through how you would set up and take a shot.
'The Casualty Collector' by chase
Sometimes I have an image going round in my head for ages, and I just have to get the right bits that fit. Sometimes it takes a while as I beg, steal or borrow the things that I need!
The composition has to look right to start with once I have the finished image in mind. The right choice of subject matter is very important to me. There has to be a link somewhere and it has to be interesting. I try to be different which is not always easy.
I collect my subjects and arrange them in a composition that I think looks pleasing to my eye; not too cluttered as I think that detracts from the intention behind the shot and the image loses its meaning.
The next step is to choose a light source. I find natural daylight is the best for still life images and I am lucky enough to have two big windows in my north facing kitchen which are at right angles to each other, which is good for shadows which give depth and form to a still life. The windows are covered with roller blinds, great for controlling the amount of light that I need.
Reflectors are great things too, a small piece of gold card or a lump of kitchen foil is ideal for pushing that extra bit of light where I need it.
I also use either a small torch, a nice little light box that I can move around easily and handhold, or a bigger light box. That one is actually an old X-ray viewing box. I experiment with the light, moving it around or using a combination of sources until I am happy with the result. I take images as I go along and review them on the back of the camera, tweaking and fiddling with the direction and intensity of the light and shadows until I am happy.
For portrait work I tend to use a couple of studio flashes. On most occasions I use just one with a nice big softbox and a triflector opposite to drop a little light onto the other side of my subject or in front of the subject to pop some soft light onto their faces or under a hat that they may be wearing.
No rocket science there, just trial and error and a few steep learning curves!
For more images, take a look at chase's portfolio