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colrehogan
10-25-2007, 05:42 PM
For those of you who do still life setups, how do you set them up and what sort of subjects do you shoot? For you LF'ers who do still life setups, are the logistics of shooting still lifes difficult? Do you shoot larger still lifes because of the larger format? Sorry if this is a confusing question. I figure since the weather is cooling down, maybe I can do some experimenting with lighting and a still life at home. I am planning to play around with the studio 8x10 a bit this winter.

gandolfi
10-25-2007, 06:01 PM
I have done lots of still lifes in LF. mostly on pol 665 pos/neg, but that is coming to an end....

but also larger.

I use as a minimum medium format for still lifes; mostly because I want to see the images on a glass plate before I make the image..

I don't know what you mean by the "logistics" of Still lifes, but I have always felt it very difficult/challenging! regardless of the negative size.

I am as some will know, very intutive in my image making - so "all" I do is to have a lot of possible items ready, and then I use a fairly large amount of time, setting the still up.. That's the challenge! it can (for me) take hours before I realize, that that little item in the far right corner ruins the whole image....

but I also find it VERY interesting and a fun thing to do.

(picture on its way...;))

TheFlyingCamera
10-25-2007, 07:38 PM
The most challenging thing about doing still life is not dealing with the camera; it's composing the subject in the first place, then lighting it. The good thing about still life with the view camera is that it makes it possible to get things in focus or throw things out of focus that smaller formats can't. And shooting with a big camera (the bigger the better), it's so much nicer to see the image on the ground glass the size it will be when it is printed (assuming you're contact printing from 8x10 or bigger negs).

papagene
10-25-2007, 08:40 PM
I have done still life work in the past (I almost got my little studio cleaned out this past spring but it seems to be a clutter magnet lately :( ) and I agree with Scott. Composing and lighting the work is about 95% of the work and viewing the composition on a ground glass as opposed to a viewfinder is great to work with.
Much of my subject matter was similar to what I was working with when I was still working in sculpture (before kids) and seemed to develop from there. And there are still plenty of ideas I would like to work on if I can ever get that little studio de-cluttered!

gene

greybeard
10-26-2007, 02:12 AM
Still life is certainly one of the hardest genres of photography, since in most cases literally everything in the image owes its presence and treatment to the mind of the photographer; the point is usually to create an [arrangement that is visually rewarding for its own sake, as opposed to illustrating something (face, tree, building, nude body...) that is intrinsically engaging. Compared to this problem, the logistics are relatively simple if you have enough room to work. For 8x10, lenses in the 300-360 mm range are suitable, although if you want even better perspective you will need a somewhat longer lens, much longer bellows, and a lot of elbow room. It is nice to be able to leave the setup in place while developing and proofing the film, so that you can iterate instead of doing a lot of bracketing (at $3+ per sheet...) but this is not essential.

Lighting can be fairly simple---one or two sources plus reflectors--because by definition nothing is going to move ("still" as opposed to quick, meaning dead as opposed to alive) but you will probably have to master reciprocity failure correction along with bellows extension factors.

Personally, I confine myself to table-top sized setups using cheap fabrics for backdrops and draping; I have an assortment of wooden blocks and other objects for use as risers and supports. I collect interesting artifacts (rocks, glassware, tools, costume jewelry...) just for photography, but my favorite subjects are pears, onions, and leaves. I like the forms and textures, and they are conveniently scaled to the size of my working space.

Good luck; it isn't trivial, but few worthwhile things are.

lesd
10-26-2007, 04:10 AM
I have done some high key work ie white objects such as folded paper or porcelain against a white background, minimalist approach.

For inspiration my favourite still life photographers are...

Ion Zupcu
Andrew Sanderson
Abelardo Morell
Trevor Ashby

All have web sites

Les

Ian Leake
10-26-2007, 12:15 PM
Still life is certainly one of the hardest genres of photography, since in most cases literally everything in the image owes its presence and treatment to the mind of the photographer; the point is usually to create an [arrangement that is visually rewarding for its own sake, as opposed to illustrating something (face, tree, building, nude body...) that is intrinsically engaging.

Still life is a challenge, but I don’t think it’s really any harder than any other form of artistic photography. In fact in many ways it’s easier: apples and pears don’t breath and don’t get bored, they don’t have power lines running through them, and they’re not on private property. Even the lighting is usually reasonably consistent.

The artist/photographer is responsible for everything that appears on the print – after all, they’re the one who chose to trigger the shutter at that moment in time, with that specific composition, and with that specific combination of camera, lens, film, aperture and shutter speed. This is true for still life, landscape, figurative, or any other photographs made with an artistic intent. It’s no good saying that a finished print expresses one’s artistic vision, but then following up by adding, “…but I wish that cloud wasn’t there,” or, “…but the model moved,” or, “…but what I really wanted to show was slightly different.”

(Afterthought: I think when the subject is intrinsically engaging it often becomes a distraction which leads to a weaker photograph, because the photographer is spending so much time looking at the model, beach, barn, or whatever, that they forget to spend an equal or greater amount of time on the overall composition.)

When I have a still life idea, I collect the bits and pieces I need, and then compose and re-compose on the ground glass until it’s exactly right. Lighting is usually based on whatever I have to hand. Often my first attempts are not quite right, or I discover something in the print that makes me want to follow a slightly different path. That’s fine: if the idea is sufficiently strong then I just go back and do it again, and again, and again… Actually this is pretty much my approach to non-still life photographs too.

The only logistics problem I usually have is space – making sure that I have sufficient space to manoeuvre my camera and try different lenses, perspectives, compositions, etc. I keep a small collection of backdrops, wedges, clamps, cards, and other weird things to help me position the subjects and “manage” the composition. And if I need something else then it’s usually easy enough to jury rig something.

jimgalli
10-26-2007, 12:43 PM
Diane, my gallery here and my web pages both have quite a lot of still life done with the giant Century 10a camera. Usually it's winter and I want to see how different lenses interpret. I consider them some of my best work. Paper negs are a lot of fun too. Forget deep depth of field and just let some of those lovely lenses you inherited have their way with beautiful bokeh. It is mostly intuitive work. Objects from long ago childhoods seem to strike a cord with me but many very common objects can have a new interest through an antique lens. Hope you'll share.

Should have added some nuts and bolts. I have lovely north and east windows in an upstairs studio. I've built a small tapletop at an easy elevation for the studio camera and it is centered between my 2 windows. I just use window light.

http://tonopahpictures.0catch.com/AnEquipmentTourDeForce.jpg

Christopher Nisperos
10-26-2007, 03:33 PM
For those of you who do still life setups, how do you set them up and what sort of subjects do you shoot? For you LF'ers who do still life setups, are the logistics of shooting still lifes difficult? Do you shoot larger still lifes because of the larger format? Sorry if this is a confusing question. I figure since the weather is cooling down, maybe I can do some experimenting with lighting and a still life at home. I am planning to play around with the studio 8x10 a bit this winter.

Hi Diane,

My avatar is an example of my still life work. Natural light. My motivation for shooting large format is that it's fun. It's interesting and challenging. The results can be very beautiful sometimes even when you err!

I suggest that you simply follow the directions (for camera operation, there are many good books ... for technical necessities, the Kodak Master Dataguide is a must). Then —as far as knowing what to shoot— just follow your heart (punctuated by alot of testing! ... afterwhich you'll probably be qualified to even give some advice here rather than ask!!)

Have fun. Be patient. Most importantly, be demanding of yourself.

Best,


Christopher

. . .

per volquartz
10-26-2007, 09:38 PM
OK, I know its not the usual way of doing things. However, my philosophy is that since we are photographing light as it is reflected off a subject matter the quality of that light is the most important element in the still life.

After setting the main light then arrange your still life within the compositional framework of what you see and feel. Then and only then set up the camera and fine tune your image.

While a foldable view cameras is easier to work with when photographing landscape, portraits and nudes it is not the ideal type of camera for close up still life photography.

For table top still life there is only one camera made if you want to be in complete control, without fumbling and leaving things to chance.
It is a Sinar P (or P2).

Finally, if you shoot very tight close ups and want utmost sharpness you either need to have a solid concrete floor in your studio (when using hot lights) or use high powered electronic flash.


Per Volquartz

http://www.pervolquartz.com

dpurdy
10-27-2007, 12:30 AM
http://www.pbase.com/dpurdy/8x10_platinum

Here are a few 8x10 still life images. For me the hardest part of still life photography is finding inspirational subject matter. I get so tired of photographing pretty pictures of flowers or fruit. Photography should be personally meaningful and not forced to be so.
DP

Ian Leake
10-27-2007, 02:49 AM
http://www.pbase.com/dpurdy/8x10_platinum

Here are a few 8x10 still life images. For me the hardest part of still life photography is finding inspirational subject matter. I get so tired of photographing pretty pictures of flowers or fruit. Photography should be personally meaningful and not forced to be so.
DP

I often make still life photos as an intellectual exercise (e.g. to test something, or to experiment with an idea), and these tend to be quite soulless photographs. More rarely I find that a still life demands to be made: these tend to be the more meaningful and satisfying ones for me.

There's a book that I found a few years ago which I'd recommend: "Home Photography" by Andrew Sanderson (Argentum). It's got some fabulous still life work in it (amongst other things), and his writing is also very illuminating (it's more about vision than technique).

By the way, what is the plural of still life: still lifes or still lives? Netither feels right to me...

jp80874
10-27-2007, 08:37 AM
Diane,

Great question and very interesting responses. There might be some ideas for you in a course I am taking this term. The course is called Illustration/Advertising Photography at the University of Akron. The primary objective is to teach strobe lighting in still life work. There is also an intro course where hot lights are used for still life. Two exceptions are off site architectural shot and an executive portrait.

We have access to 1000 watt second White Lightnings on tripods with umbrellas and 2400 ws Speedotrons with umbrellas or 3 foot and 6 foot soft boxes on booms. The school has two large studios and the equipment may be signed out as long as it is back for the two courses where they are used.

Half the subjects must be shot with 4x5s using Polaroid and then color transparencies. Half the subjects are shot with digital (Forgive me). The school has Calumets and Canon Rebel xti to use or bring your own. You can imagine that the half and half requirement presents very interesting challenges in perspective and depth of field control. I could have used my 8x10, but the cost for essentially practice work seemed prohibitive. If interested I think you could replicate the challenges by using 8x10 and 35mm. I am using Velvia 100 and Polaroid 54.

We work in two person teams or as a group for critique and idea sessions. I have been able to help some with view camera movements. I do not have the Photoshop prerequisite so most of the class has helped me there. As a 67 year retiree I am having a ball with my 22 year old, blond team mate, who teaches cheerleading and dance on the side. God is Good.

Subjects and my choices:
Architectural Exterior – a new high price off campus condo
Jewelry – An 1870s Dandy’s gold pocket watch with hunter case and sweep stop watch functions.
Luminescent Products. There must be a working light within the subject. – a lighted magnifier set up on the product literature.
Tools of the Trade- a stainless dial caliper on white textured paper ala Walker Evans “The common Tools”
Raw Materials- A multi part 1/43d model kit, the finished model, glue, paint, instructions in French and tools. Many of the young ladies shot food preparation with the raw materials and finished meal. Clean up was quite tasty.
Long stem flower or macro blossom- Our local florist made some wonderful suggestions and had super fresh flowers for me the day of the shoot. I did two shoots here, one film, one digital.
Executive office environmental- This is a difficult request for a college kid to make the arrangements. For me it was hard because most of my old customers are also retired and have thrown away their suits. A local Deardoff V8 shooting friend helped me out. I did a head shot and we plan an environmental portrait.
Retail Fashion- I needed a new pair of hiking boots anyway.
Glass Containers- Three different glass Bugatti car models. They weren’t containers, but the Professor is a car nut and let me use them.
Two additional subjects drawn from the above with different set ups.- as mentioned above

For a final we have to make a Power Point presentation of our work. All film has to be scanned to be incorporated in what becomes a portfolio. Diane, I hope there are some ideas for you here.

John Powers

Bandicoot
10-27-2007, 12:54 PM
For those of you who do still life setups, how do you set them up and what sort of subjects do you shoot?

I don't find it especially easy to say to myself "I want to shoot still-life, now what shall I use as a subject?" For me the best results are mostly from seeing something and being inspired by it, or sometimes seeing a particular light effect and thinking of something that would look good in that light. Sometimes I will shoot one subject and then feel inspired to do a series on a theme, but often it will be a case of just one subject and then nothing till inspiration strikes again, maybe later the same day, maybe not till the next month.

I use a lot of hot lights and nearly 20,000Ws of flash, but many more than half of my 'artistic' still-life shots are lit by natural light. Sometimes the light at a particular time of day gives me an idea and I set something up and wait for the same light to return the next day - sometimes the weather keeps me waiting for days. The smaller the subject, the more likely I am to use artificial light.

The actual subject might be anything, but small tools and household objects, flowers and vegetables have particular appeal to me. I'm also very fond of the effects of decay - I love a flower arrangement when the petals have started to fall.

How the subject is 'set-up' varies enormously, depending on what the subject is, how I want to arrange it (crucially), the angle I want to shoot from, and what the light is and what direction it comes from. Some things can be shot on a copy stand or with my 4x5 Polaroid copy camera, some are done on a translucent sweep. Others are stood on boxes or small tables with a fabric or paper backdrop behind them, or are on a 30" high dining table with a roll of (usually dove grey) seamless swept out onto it. Some subjects are backlit by putting them on, or above, a lightbox. Some must be done in a particular room of the house because only there do I get whatever light it is that I want. (A couple of laboratory jacks are very useful.)

All this limitless choice is part of the challenge, and so also part of the pleasure.


For you LF'ers who do still life setups, are the logistics of shooting still lifes difficult?

In some ways LF cameras make things easier. The complexity in a still-life tends to revolve around the lighting, arranging and supporting the subject, and the background. The movements I get with a view camera, the ability to control the plane of focus, and the continuously variable scale of reproduction can make the logistics easier than using a smaller format camera with a more fixed relationship between lens and film-plane. Shallower DoF is of course relevant, but then choice of how much DoF one wants is a key driver in choosing which format to use anyway.

What a view camera does do is tend to increase the amount of space you need - for the camera and possibly to work round it. With 10x8 you may end up with a lot of bellows draw, and that makes the camera very 'big' and may mean you have to move bodily back and forth between the lens and the back. As long as you have the space though, this just adds a bit of time to the process, it doesn't really make it any more difficult. (Other factors do that for you!)


Do you shoot larger still lifes because of the larger format?

In a way, yes. I shoot the largest proportion of my still-life on 6x9. (A rollfilm holder on a Horseman rotary back on an Arca 4x5 Monolith is my favourite way of working, a smaller and much lighter Arca 6x9 is what I use most often away from home or on my all-too-lightweight copy stand.) With 6x9 I will not often shoot as still-life anything smaller than about lifesize (more enlargement than that and somehow I am not shooting still-life anymore, the aesthetic seems to change.) With 4x5 I won't often (for DoF reasons as well) go beyond about half lifesize, and the same rough rule of thumb applies to 10x8. In the other direction, no subject is 'too big' for any format. So in a sense the larger format is making me choose larger subjects, but it is really more determind by magnification, DoF, and the size of the subject on the final print than by any feeling that certain formats require certain size subjects.


Sorry if this is a confusing question.

Less confusing than my answers probably were! :D

Anyway, still-life can be immensely satisfying: enjoy it.


Peter

colrehogan
10-27-2007, 03:01 PM
Thanks to everyone for their replies and comments. I hope to be shooting in my living room/kitchen, which doesn't leave a lot of space for moving the camera around. The camera I was intending to use was my Century studio 8x10 where possible. I have some old studio lights that the guy who sold me this camera sold me as well as some more modern lights which might be used outside of a tabletop box for photographing jewelery and the like.

Wow Jim! What a collection you have there!

Christopher Nisperos
10-27-2007, 08:28 PM
OK, I know its not the usual way of doing things. However, my philosophy is that since we are photographing light as it is reflected off a subject matter the quality of that light is the most important element in the still life.

After setting the main light then arrange your still life within the compositional framework of what you see and feel. Then and only then set up the camera and fine tune your image.

While a foldable view cameras is easier to work with when photographing landscape, portraits and nudes it is not the ideal type of camera for close up still life photography.

For table top still life there is only one camera made if you want to be in complete control, without fumbling and leaving things to chance.
It is a Sinar P (or P2).

Finally, if you shoot very tight close ups and want utmost sharpness you either need to have a solid concrete floor in your studio (when using hot lights) or use high powered electronic flash.


Per Volquartz

http://www.pervolquartz.com

Hello Per. Like your work.

Don't forget that for those of us who use natural night sometimes are forced to position the camera in relation to a window, with little possibility to maneuver around very much. In effect, this is a "main light" which has been placed by circumstance. By the way, the concrete floor is especially good advice in this case!

As you well pointed out, everyone has their own way of doing things. In my case —when using studio lighting, which is obviously positionable— I arrange my still life (subjects) before doing the lighting. To me, that is one of the main advantages of using studio lighting in the first place.

The Sinar P2 is certainly a fine camera. Whether or not it is the "only camera made for table top still life offering complete control, without fumbling and leaving things to chance", I don't know. I've never used one, but I'll take your word for it! Sinar has been around since 1947. I wonder if Edward Weston ever even saw one?

Best,

Christopher

. . . . . . . .

colrehogan
10-28-2007, 03:57 PM
http://www.pbase.com/dpurdy/8x10_platinum

Here are a few 8x10 still life images. For me the hardest part of still life photography is finding inspirational subject matter. I get so tired of photographing pretty pictures of flowers or fruit. Photography should be personally meaningful and not forced to be so.
DP

Thanks for the link to your site. Those are some nicely done still lifes.

Early Riser
10-29-2007, 07:27 AM
Per is right, it's all about light. The subject matter itself doesn't matter if you know how to light, and compose, a good still life. Even the humblest of items can be made interesting, as an example styrofoam coffee cups and a plastic spoon, shot with a Sinar P2 of course:

DanielOB
10-29-2007, 10:38 AM
Even view camera can make trickery with DOF I would not put away 35 mm. Those 35 mm cameras can make really nice stills emhasing very nice properties of photography, grain and blur, and extreme accutance at the same moment. "Sharpess" all over is more painting-like picture and I do not like 'em in photography.

www.Leica-R.com

Struan Gray
10-29-2007, 11:06 AM
I am not an arranger, but I do have a slowly-growing series of unstill lifes showing the agglomerations and juxtapositions that spontaneously arise in a house with three small children. Sometimes it's the piles of stuff they make themselves, like the heap of gleanings built up during the last month's worth of autumn family walks. Sometimes it's the rubble of minor tat that just seems to accumulate of it's own accord on any less-frequently used horizonal surface. Sometimes it's forensic clues to the unspoken nature of family life - like the tangled lamp flex bodged into the ceiling fitting, still unshortened after a year of good intentions on my part.

I like to photograph them in the light where I find them, and use LF whenever I have the luxury of time, 6x6 if not. They are not still lives in the classic sense, although in purely visual terms they belong to that genre.