Just a bit of fun today, shooting around the patio with black and white. The above was the side of a water canister with the shadow of a Japanese maple on it.
And here’s a succulent. The big thing I found, surprisingly, is that the red filter seems the most effective in giving me what I was looking for. I expected better out of the blue or green or yellow, yet here we are!
Not my smokes, but good in the composition.
And a nice angled shot of the grill.
A small palm, with the fence behind it.
And last but not least, the basil plant. Sole survivor of bad transplants and evil rats!
For this set of photographs, I decided to focus on my kitchen, but give it a black-and-white treatment. I mostly did closeup shots, except in a few cases, to limit the frame to the subject at hand and not clutter things up and cause distractions.
I almost got rid of the soup can, on the thinking that this would be interpreted as Warhol-esque. But it was there, and I figured, might as well be honest that I like the occasional Campbell’s with a peanut butter sandwich.
I also used a variety of B&W treatments here, depending on the exact subject. This one was a red filter, but some others used blue, or just darkened, or otherwise manipulated. I’m not set on any one style, just what suits the purpose at hand best.
Hey, I live near Gilroy, so yeah, there’s a lot of garlic. That and it makes up for a childhood without it (parental allergy, boo!).
And yes, TWO knife racks. Too many knives … but they all come in handy, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
This shoot was done right after I cooked lunches for the week, and have ingredients on hand for morning juicing, so this thing is packed.
And did I mention I like to cook? Sadly, this is not all the spices … they are also in a cupboard and two drawers, and the whole room’s spices are alphabetized clockwise (really). I’m mental like that.
This is probably a sign that I’m seriously deranged … but for whatever reason, carousel horses have always struck me as a bizarre, frightening thing when you stop to think and they aren’t surrounded by shrieking children.
Their faces frozen in a rictus of excitement – or is it agony? Or aggression? Something strongly felt but so deliberately vague that you can read into it as you will. Almost like they themselves are a photography, held still in time, from another world we can only see glimpses of and struggle to understand.
Seem to sticking with monochrome for the moment, so here’s another: portraiture.
I’ve not had a lot of success in this in the past, and the photo above is the one real exception. I think it’s partly the subject matter (i.e. black cat) but also the midtones of the surrounding area. This is something I want to work more on in the future.
Next time, some “softening” photoshop effects a la wedding photography, as applied to champagne drinks.
Another studio shoot for today, this time photographs of smoke.
This is the first time I’ve done it, so here’s a few pointers I’ve found out by trial and error.
First on background, use a black one. It contrasts better with the smoke and keeps visual clutter out. Also make sure it is non-reflective (this would be the error part – and a pain to correct in photoshop). Having a bunch of sparkly crap on a black scarf behind smoke just looks ridiculous, as seen here. Plus, distracting!
Fast shutter speed is a must as well. This is particularly true if you’re trying to catch action when the smoke changes, which it does and does often. So use lots of light and a flashgun as needed. I seem to have gotten best results with the overhead light off and a flashgun.
Third, regarding stability. I did use a tripod, but I’m not convinced it is either strictly necessary or desirable. On the one hand, it does allow stability, which is particularly nice given that it can be hard to focus on smoke … autofocus seems unable to do this well, though that would have been my lens as well since I was using a macro that I know is prone to hunting. But given how dynamic smoke is as a subject, I think next time I will shoot “untethered” and see whether it impacts the results.
And subject matter: I just used 2 sticks of incense. Above all, BE SAFE – you will be using smoke, and at the risk of a cliche, where there’s smoke there’s fire. And fire, if it becomes a problem, is nobody’s friend.
Yet more on exposure today. You may think this is all overkill considering your camera can do a lot of the work now, but you’d be surprised. Especially in some oddball situations (night sky and snow for example), your camera’s light meter won’t be as helpful as you’re used to it being.
That said, today, the Zone System. If you want to go in-depth on this, pick up Ansel Adams’ The Negative anyplace that sells books on photography (or Amazon). It was his concept, and it still holds up all these decades later.
Here’s the basic idea for black and white photography, though the same principles hold true for color. Think of the scale of light to dark, starting at total black (referred to as zone 0) to total white (zone 10) with neutral gray in the middle (zone 5). You’ll see a lot of images like the one below used to describe this in texts
The essential goal is that when you’re looking through the viewfinder, try and determine what part of your image would correspond to Zone 5, the neutral gray, neither too light nor too dark. Then set your camera exposure to the “correct” exposure for that spot (e.g. on your light meter, the middle hash mark).
By doing this, the things that should be dark will appear darker in the image, and similarly the bright things will look bright. It’s a little easier conceptually when you’re thinking of it in terms of B&W as that makes the concept of the exposure (read: amount of light) more straightforward, but as I said, it applies to ANY photographic image. You just have to think of what’s neither a high nor a low, but a mid-tone, and base your exposure on that.
There is quite literally TONS written on this subject, so I’m not going to try to be comprehensive. You can find a ton online, and oodles of books on the subject. But I’m still partial to Adams’ original explanation … the proverbial horse’s mouth always seemed the best place to go for it.
I’ll just leave you with an image unrelated to anything, but one that was exposed well and that I’m fond of.
A musing on the relationship between math and music, in photographic form. The normal interpretation of this comparison would be about the evidence of pattern and form, and the linguistic nature of music, but I’m going to take a different tack this time: the instrument itself, as interpreted with geometry. Apologies in advance to Euclid!
Look at the lines, the curves, and their relation. Symmetry, duality, and complement.
I shot this close-in to achieve just that effect, and limited the sharpness and lighting to make the focus fall squarely on the strings and lower fret board. And the black-and-white removes the distraction (in this case) of color, to further drive home the point that the shapes are the essence of the image.
But you can also do it with a range of tonalities, as here. Because, in the end, what is the zone system, and exposure metering in general, if not math? Powers of 2 for shutter speed and ISO, and logarithmic scales for aperture!
This one I shot similarly, but actually converted to infrared black and white, as I found it to bring out the rosette much better.
So like I said at the start, I see the relationship. Maybe just because I am a math nerd and play guitar, but I still say I’m on to something.
Now go listen to some good guitar music, and plan your next photoshoot.