Red Pepper

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook (or even Google+ or App.net) then you will have seen me post this image a week or so ago with little explanation. If you hadn’t filled in the gaps, then you’re about to find out just what I was up to.

I’ve mentioned our kitchen being refurbished on a few occasions in this blog. Although the work has been finished for a while my wife and I are looking to add some finishing touches, mainly centred around the colour red. Holly decided it would be a nice idea to have a predominantly red, possibly abstract image on the wall for a splash of colour. This idea soon evolved into me taking a photograph of a tomato for the same purpose. So, a couple of weeks ago, I grabbed a red pepper from the fridge as a tomato stand-in to play about with some test shots.

In the old days, my kitchen food shots used to be done on the counter by the window, which provided a nice source of natural light. In the new kitchen, that isn’t possible, as the sink is now there (where it should have been in the first place). Fortunately the new kitchen is mostly white rather than a mucky grey, so I set up on newer bit of exposed kitchen surface, and set up my flashgun with a plastic diffuser on top to camera left, wirelessly triggered.

1/160, f/4, ISO 200, 60mm
1/160, f/4, ISO 200, 60mm

As I have to when shooting under predominantly flash, I had the camera set on manual mode. I kept the aperture as wide open as possible to get as much blur as I could on the background (I normally do this, of course – but this time there was a conscious aesthetic decision to do so). Being able to discern the tiling of the kitchen probably wouldn’t be an image-ruiner but I was keen to minimise it as much as I could. So I decided that f/4 wasn’t quite good enough, and switched to my macro lens to try f/2.8. It definitely improved things, but had another unintended side effect.

1/160, f/2.8, ISO 200, 100mm
1/160, f/2.8, ISO 200, 100mm

As you can see, it blurred the background nicely. However it closed up the depth of field a bit too much, meaning the side of the pepper facing me and the green stalk couldn’t both be in focus at the same time. Unfortunately, this wasn’t something I thought about at the time nor noticed on the screen on my camera. I always seem to forget that the screen on the back of my camera is so small that everything usually looks in focus.

I continued playing about with angles, still keeping the flashgun to the left and using the my refrigerator as a bit of a reflector. It all looked a lot like this:

IMG_7075

I tried changing my height a little bit. I found I quite liked being able to see better where the stalk met the pepper itself.

1/160, f/2.8, ISO 200, 100mm
1/160, f/2.8, ISO 200, 100mm

I wanted to play about with some more direct light, so I set up my soft box with the flash pointed right at the pepper, like this.

IMG_7083

Finally, this should all look familiar. This is what I got.

1/200, f/4, ISO 200, 73mm
1/200, f/4, ISO 200, 73mm

The soft box has diffused the light but by still having it pointing at the pepper it’s given it a stronger shadow. Such things are completely subjective but I think I prefer it. I had switched back to the 24-105mm lens so at f/4 the depth of field is clearly deeper, with the background a little bit more in focus.

At this point whilst post-processing these images, I realised I was perhaps a little underexposed on these first shots taken with the soft box. Unfortunately, correcting the exposure blew out the delicate red on the pepper, especially at the point where the light was reflecting right off it. To solve this I resorted to using the dodge tool in Aperture to brighten the background without affecting the subject. The result is an even stronger shadow on the pepper.

1/200, f/4, ISO 200, 47mm
1/200, f/4, ISO 200, 47mm
1/200, f/4, ISO 200, 47mm
1/200, f/4, ISO 200, 47mm

Shooting at f/4 the background wasn’t nearly blurred enough for me, so I swapped back to the macro lens.

1/200, f/2.8, ISO 200, 100mm
1/200, f/2.8, ISO 200, 100mm
1/250, f/2.8, ISO 200, 100mm
1/250, f/2.8, ISO 200, 100mm

Soon f/2.8 wasn’t good enough, so I broke out the old trusty nifty fifty for its f/1.8 aperture.

1/250, f/1.8, ISO 100, 50mm
1/250, f/1.8, ISO 100, 50mm
1/250, f/1.8, ISO 100, 50mm
1/250, f/1.8, ISO 100, 50mm

When I had first imagined the tomato shot that this pepper shoot was in preparation for, I envisioned it to look a lot like the images above – albeit with a lot less obvious a background. Having felt I’d explored the various options on this front and to mix things up a bit, I tried shooting from a completely different angle.

1/250, f/1.8, ISO 100, 50mm
1/250, f/1.8, ISO 100, 50mm
1/250, f/2.5, ISO 100, 50mm
1/250, f/2.5, ISO 100, 50mm

After Holly saw these images on the back of the camera, she suggested that an image of a pepper would work just as well as an image of a tomato. She hasn’t yet had a proper chance to evaluate the full set of these images and decide if any of them is good enough to enshrine on our kitchen wall or if I need to have another go.  We shall see…

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Related Posts:

Food, Glorious Food
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Hot Chocolate

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