Enjoy Very Long Exposures With Will Cheung And MPB

Adding and taking away


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Adding and taking away

3 Feb 2021 7:53AM   Views : 1766 Unique : 1069


A vague feeling of déjà vu – but there must now be getting on for 300 of these blogs that I’ve written in the last 10 months or so. So indulge me, if you can…

Still life is one of the hardest genres, I reckon, because you start with a blank, and so everything in the frame is there because you put it there – unless you try ‘found’ still life, where you look at a shop window or a bookshelf or a pile of rubbish in a garden, and suddenly see a composition begging to be recorded. In that case, is it cheating to move something to improve the composition?

Having discovered Portrait Artist of the Year (and its companion, Landscape Artist of the Year) I’m getting the chance to see the process that some painters use to make a picture. They work the same way as a still life photographer, beginning with one thing, then adding others. Sometimes, it’s the eyes, or a rough outline: almost certainly (if you don’t draw yourself) it’s not what you’d have imagined.

Is the background an afterthought for you? Sometimes it is for the portrait painter… Even in making a studio portrait, most photographers begin with setting up a backdrop, or at least tidying away last night’s takeaway… (Hint: a supply of joss sticks is a good idea if you use your own living space as a studio. Just saying.) It was interesting, when I asked Mrs D to take my picture before I gave up my attempt to impersonate Albert Einstein’s hair, how differently she approached framing.

Of course, I’m forgetting the option of doing stuff with editing, which is a bit of a cheek given that the picture I’m aiming to post today is the result of paying a friend who has an active interest in creative photography to edit one of my pictures. She’s done a wild job, has Becky, which is just what I wanted. But this is the result of a number of hours at the computer.

Back to the direct issue: in still life you begin with a blank, and build up your picture. Grace notes and whimsicalities along the way make an image more impressive: I struggle to get beyond placing something on a third! (Maybe there’s a future blog in there?) All the rest of the time, it’s about avoiding distractions, and possibly editing out. Or maybe it’s about a slightly wild creative process: when I photograph a person, there’s a conversation, and I ask them about ideas and preferences, or let them choose a pose or two, and we build a picture together. Maybe if I start talking to ornaments, they’ll talk back, and tell me what they want placed next to them?

The rest of the time, I look for the camera position that excludes the gasometer at the edge of the frame, the lamp post sticking out of the head (obviously!), the plainer background that an unlit hedge provides, rather than brightly lit flowerbeds. (I wrote an article here a year or two back: it stemmed from my admiration of the way that Alan – whatriveristhis – works from a slice of reality to his self-contained and lovely final images.)

Have a look at his work, if you’re not familiar with it – I find that it’s a constant inspiration. And then exclude an extraneous detail today!


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
3 Feb 2021 7:53AM
All thoughts always welcome...
altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 24.1k United Kingdom
3 Feb 2021 8:31AM
Still life/macro photography.
Everything can go against you. especially as you get older. I set things up on my kitchen table, adjust the composition, the framing, the lighting, the focusing. Then I touch the table leg, things fall over, the camera settings are wrong, ten minutes in I need a comfort break, then the battery in the camera needs replacing.
Trying to reflect some light from the window becomes a challenge because I have not got three hands, the reflector (card) and or background cannot be kept from falling over. then the sun goes behind a cloud. After all that I kick the tripod leg and the focus and framing has to be reset.

It is then that I wish I was out in the countryside in full sunight snapping away at the green leaves with my infrared converted GX-7 and a wide angle af lens without a worry. Perhaps this Summer!???
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
3 Feb 2021 9:51AM
Familiarity helps...

As does a really solid table, and plenty of Blue Tack to keep things in position.

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