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“Still” Life

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Still Life. It′s a misnomer. Life is never “still”.

Every moment, every subject can be framed and its image captured, but to show its life is the challenge. To best achieve a poignant “Still Life” be aware of light and composition. The quality of the light can enhance your subject to be vivid or seductive, placid or tempestuous. Compositionally the subject can be isolated and highlighted with multiple techniques.

The two images shown demonstrate the same subject in two different environments. Though both images depict the same bottle, the emotional appeal of each is different due to light and composition.

Image number one was created with natural light on the floor of my home. Sunlight was spilling through a window (in winter the light comes through windows at a great angle) making a pattern. I was drinking a glass of wine and contemplating life, well before becoming a father, and decided to play. First I noticed how the light played through the glass than placed the bottle in the light behind the glass. Using a 50mm lens I framed the image and manipulated the objects into a satisfactory composition then metered off the floor because the white label and the shadowed areas would have given an incorrect reading. Then pushed the button. Of course I played around and shot multiple compositions before stopping and bracketed my exposure the usual 1 stop under one stop over.

Michael_Thoennes_StillLife_1
© Michael Thoennes

Image number two was a far more detailed execution. In this image the setting was established with the props; two glasses, a backgammon board, floor rug to match color, bottle of wine and a fire place. The challenge was to establish a warm glowing environment, two friends playing backgammon, enjoying wine, fireside. Generally the biggest mistake made by a photographer is to settle on an easy composition. A wise photographer will take the time to investigate multiple angles and compositional solutions. In this case the camera was on the floor. Using a 105 mm lens and a few reflector lights (those cheap silver dish lights with clips), I lined up this shot over a few hours and a lot of frames until I had exhausted most possibilities.

Michael_Thoennes_StillLife
© Michael Thoennes

Whether its a flower, a bottle or a seashell, if you′re gonna take the time to shoot it, take your time to consider your composition and your light. And when in doubt, push the button, you can always through it out.


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