Being Self-critical!

Time to take a few steps back and be self-critical.

The image shown below has been given the title “Still-life with Citrus Fruit”. It was made as part of this week’s research into the methods used, if any were, to control light by the great masters.


Morris, 2016. Still-life with Citrus Fruit

I think it has a strong, yet simple composition designed to show the exquisite texture and rich colours of the main subjects – an orange and lemons in a simple, hand-turned wooden bowl. A white scarf featuring an intricate blue pattern compliments the main subject and provides a degree of balance, as do an orange leaf, knife and an ammonite fossil.

The view point for the image is similar to that utilised by the great masters in many of their works. So, whilst it is not, in general terms, unique it does have a legitimacy arising from a tried-and-tested “formula”. Close-up shots are en voque in contemporary food photography and I wish to avoid producing images with such a perspective. What other perspectives portray the characteristics of still-life subjects to be displayed in such an appealing and “accessible” manner, laid-bare and nothing hidden? Or is there? What is hidden away in this image? What can’t we see?

That’s an area for future exploration.

The image was taken using only natural light. The location for the composition was chosen so that the subjects would be bathed in pools of warm mid-morning light. The split-lighting effect of the natural light provides contrasting regions within the composition, dapples of joyful bright colour in the highlight areas opposed by the dark moodiness of the shadow areas.

Note that the image is lit from the left. It was an interesting exercise to construct a “dolly”, a quickly conceived contraption upon which the still-life table could be placed in order to allow it to revolve 360 degrees around it’s rotation axis. Keeping all other variables constant, seeing the same composition lit from the right was quite revealing and is something I will expand upon at another time.

Does the image meet my expectations? Well, no actually. It exceeds my expectations. Is that selling myself short? No, I don’t think so because I “hoped” and planned accordingly to achieve a final image that had a high degree of aesthetic appeal and technical quality, but aiming to produce an image lit solely by natural light, did I “expect” the desired outcome.

I am, in short, very pleased with this image. That’s not to say I’m comfortable having arrived at this point. In fact, far from it. Having reached this juncture, I want to continue exploring, to see what is around the next corner. So, what can I do differently in future that builds upon this momentary success? Again, something for future exploration.

Does the image match my pre-visualisation? Yes, I was able to arrange the still-life with items I planned, in the way I planned. That’s an area I had a reasonable level of control over, unlike the environmental conditions. Which leads very nicely into my final point …

Were there any challenges involved in making this image? Most definitely. The image was taken on a day with very changeable weather conditions. Dark clouds producing rain for the main with intermittent spells of blue skies and sunlight meant that there was no guarantee of the warm mid-morning sun that I hoped for. In the end, being prepared and patient paid dividends.

Doesn’t it always?

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