Thursday, May 13, 2010

Assignment 4: Submission Notes

The initial challenge of this assignment was to select an appropriate subject that would enable me to work around each of the qualities requested in the brief.  I have always enjoyed flower photography and so my initial ideas were a bunch of Tulips or an exotic flower such as an orchid.   I worked up a series of images for each of these, however, in the mean time my wife found a decorative Pineapple in a florist.  This offered an organic object that possessed strong 3 dimensional structure couple with interesting textures and colour.  This is the subject that I am presenting for this submission.  I have documented the other series of images in my blog.

My lighting set up consists of 2 400J Elinchrom flash heads with a variety of light formers, such as soft boxes, umbrellas, and a snoot.  I also have a large reflector with a bracket to enable mounting on a lighting stand. I have a flash meter, however, I have found that when I work in the studio with still life subjects I tether my camera directly to my computer and so have instant feedback for exposure, making visual adjustment much easier.  I typically place one flash in a soft box to the left of my camera with a reflector on the right hand side of the subject.  This creates a two light solution and by adjusting the reflector I can manage the fill on the right hand side of the subject

I use the second flash for effects such as creating a white background or providing very focused light with the snoot and honeycomb.  For the white backgrounds I place the second flash head inside a large soft box immediately behind the subject.  Using minimum power and slaving this gun to the primary, I can guarantee a pure white background by effectively blowing out the background.  Care must be taken as it is possible to create unpleasant lens artifacts.  For a black background I hang a large sheet of black felt on a bookcase immediately behind the subject.  So long as I position the lights to avoid directly illuminating the felt this works well.

Lens choice was fairly simple, I wanted fine control and the ability to get in close, so have used either a 100mm or 180mm Macro.  Most of the images are shot with fairly narrow apertures of f/16 or f/22, however, for some shots I wanted to use a wider aperture of f/2.8.  This was an issue as even the minimum setting on a pair of 400J flash guns in a small room creates a lot of light.  In these cases I used ND filters to reduce the amount of light entering the camera.

Once again I have tried to produce paired complementary images.  The greatest difficulty has been to select images that clearly reflect the desired property as in most cases more than one property is present in the images, as an example the images displaying texture also clearly show the detailed colour of the object.  One choice would have been to process the texture images in Black and White, however, I love colour and would rather retain a little ambiguity than lose this quality from my pictures.

My first pair of images presents the three-dimensionality of the Pineapple.  The left hand image shows the whole fruit and I have chosen the lighting to emphasize this.  The primary flash gun is to the left of the subject in a soft box, with a silver reflector to the right filling in some of the shadows. I experimented with black or white as the background, but found that the very high contrast generated by a black background emphasized the colour of the subject more than the form.  As mentioned above the white background is a second flash gun in a large soft box.

The right hand image is a close up of the leaves, using a quite different lighting setup.  I wanted to highlight the pattern created by the overlap of the leaves. Top retain a sense of three-dimensionality I needed dark shadows behind the leaves to create a sense of depth.  To do so I have used a single flash gun with a snoot angled upwards towards the leaves throwing strong shadows. 

Left: Canon EOS 5D2, 180mm, f/16, 1/125s, ISO 100

Right: Canon EOS 5D2, 100mm, f/16, 1/125s, ISO 100

For Shape I have used edge lighting to illustrate the outline of the Pineapple, minimizing the amount of colour and texture visible in the pictures.  Lighting for both images was a single flash gun with a Snoot aimed from behind the subject and over to the right in the image.  The black background draws attention to the edge of the subject.  In the close up of the leaves the dominant feature is the hooks along the edge of the leaves.

Left: Canon EOS 5D2, 100mm, f/16, 1/125s, ISO 100

Right: Canon EOS 5D2, 100mm, f/16, 1/125s, ISO 100

This is where the value of using a dedicated macro lens came in as I needed to get in close to the Pineapple to show the textures present.  The left image shows the fine texture of the underside of the leaves and the structure of the hooks.  This is similar to the second image in Form, but by moving much closer I have tried to create an abstract composition, bringing attention to the small scale rather than large scale properties of the leaves. The right hand image is a detail of one of the segments on the body of the Pineapple.  I have used a very wide aperture to bring focus to just one of the segments and used a nearly 1:1 magnification to focus in on the detail present in the segment.  I have used a single light at a glancing angle to create stronger shadows.

Left: Canon EOS 5D2, 100mm, f/22, 1/125s, ISO 100

Right: Canon EOS 5D2, 100mm, f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO 100

For my final pair of images capturing the colour of the Pineapple, I have used two different effects.  The left hand image is very strongly illuminated with front and back flashes and limited shadow, emphasizing the red of the body of the Pineapple. For the right hand image I have laid the Pineapple on its side and shot the glossy upper surface of the leaves.  I have used a very wide aperture of f/2,8 to throw  most of the picture out of focus and only contributing colour.

Left: Canon EOS 5D2, 100mm, f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO 100

Right: Canon EOS 5D2, 180mm, f/16, 1/125s, ISO 800

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