I don’t really often do what most would consider ‘still life’. I generally associate the term with arranging items into an aesthetically pleasing arrangement and taking a shot of the sort you’d find in a painting (my current favourite practiser of the genre is Jennifer over at Quirk’n It).
It’s one of the areas of photography I’ve not spent much time with. This is partly because ideally it requires set up, taking whatever you’re planning on shooting, arranging it all just so, lighting or arranging it to take account of natural light, and getting that one great shot. I’m not so good at that. I usually see, and shoot. It’s why my shots often have cluttered backgrounds and why there aren’t a whole lot of photos I’ve taken under controlled flash.
However when my five-year-old niece visited back in summer, it soon emerged she had some pretty good flower arranging skill, as she picked a bunch of daisies from what passes as our garden and set them out in a small pot. At some other point during the visit, my wife made a pot of tea. After everyone had left, I noticed how everything left on the table looked like something at least approaching presentable. So I grabbed my camera, and with a slight nudging of the arrangement to better fit the frame, I grabbed a few shots.
As if often my way, I quickly began playing about, trying to get various angles and levels of detail.
In post too, I did some experimentation. When I’m photographing one thing I always struggle to take just one shot, and this extends to deleting shots or picking that one great angle that says it all. As a result, I fear boredom and start experimenting with ways of making stuff look interesting. Here I’ve used a colour filter which has resulted in a bit of a seventies feel.
I soon continued playing about by switching to my 50mm f/1.8 lens and setting the aperture to as big as it would go.
And it was probably inevitable that I’d break out my macro lens too.
One of the challenges of the macro lens, especially when shooting at max aperture (f/2.8) to capitalise on the available natural light, is where to stick the focus on something like this arrangement. Even things a centimetre or two further away from the lens are out of the narrow depth of field afforded by focussing so close to the subject.
As I moved around the subject, I started noticing a few little things I’d completely missed when I first started shooting. Like this buttercup, which looks like it might need some building up (I’m so, so sorry).
I continued shooting, rotating the pot around a bit for a better view.
It was about this point that I noticed something on the lower left flower – a greenfly.
Feeling a tiny bit more confident – or perhaps I just wanted to exploit the scene before it got washed up – I switched back to my wide angle lens (which was the 18-135mm back then) and rearranged the shot a little bit more.
This has also been through Color Efex Pro to give it a colder feel. The spoon is supposed to represent… I have no idea. Reading meanings into things has never been a strongpoint of mine.
I took a slightly different framing and, in post, decided to go for a pretty obvious colour filter. It seemed to work, however.
After this, I felt the light had gone a bit too much, so I tried using a flash to fill in the details. This is the only shot that was presentable, the others looking far too much like there was a flash pointed at them.
Right, I seemed to have dwelled for far, far too long on a simple arrangement of a teapot, jug, sugar bowl and a pot of daisies. Not least because I shot these last May which was, if you’re keeping score, ages ago. Clearly if I do any still life in the future, I need to improve on my setting up of the scene, and get much, much better at editing the resulting images.
Squirrel in the Garden
Return to the Royal Parks