Still life with LF
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.
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...)
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).
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!
Long live Ed "Big Daddy" Roth!!
"I don't care about Milwaukee or Chicago." - Yvon LeBlanc
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.
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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...
All have web sites
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.
Originally Posted by greybeard
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.
Last edited by Ian Leake; 10-26-2007 at 11:21 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: Oops, spelling; and added an afterthought
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.
Originally Posted by colrehogan
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.
. . .
Last edited by Christopher Nisperos; 10-26-2007 at 02:41 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Set the main light first...
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.