One recent rainy weekend day I thought I would try my hand at shooting still life images with some vegetables I had picked up at our local farmers market. The idea came to me when I walked through the market and was attracted to the bright red radishes and the vivid purple of some unusual cauliflower. I had shot some yellow oyster mushrooms previously as a lighting study and picked up some of them, along with some bok choi. Making my way home, I tried various arrangements on my kitchen counter until I came up with something that looked pleasing and would stay in place while I found a way to light it.
I put a softbox on a light stand camera left fitted with a speedlight. I powered the speedlight down so that the flash was as low as I could get it and then took successive shots, increasing the power of the flash in small increments until I got what I thought looked good. I wanted to get as much depth of field as possible to keep the detail in the cauliflower. In the end, I was pleased with the results.
The image below was shot in a similar fashion. In this case the star of the show is the bunch of radishes contrasting with the small white turnips. The copper saucepan in the background adds some warmth to the shot and provides a little context.
In May, 2014 my wife, Clara, and I traveled to Paris for my birthday. Being a pair of foodies, I had researched as many patisseries, boulangeries, fomageries, and marches located near our rented apartment in the 6th arrondissement so that we could plan our daily wanderings to include visits to these culinary destinations. I knew ahead of time that we could never visit every one of them but knowing that another great shop or market was just around the corner, or just down another quaint street provided an element of adventure as we explored the Latin Quarter.
The photo above was taken through the window at Arnaud Larher's boutique at 93 rue de Seine, 75006 Paris near the Marche Saint-Germin. We had selected this destination based on the the fame of Larher's tarte citron. One of these beauties is shown topped with fresh raspberries above. Feeling no need to stop with only one miniature tarte citron, we brought several more small creations back for sampling later that evening.
Marche Saint-Germain, located at 14 Rue Lobineau, 75006 Paris is a covered market with a wide range of food vendors and shops. The photo below shows a poissonnier who, when I asked rather humbly, in my best and most polite French - Puis-je prendre votore photo? (May I take your picture?) boomed, "Yes" and smiled wryly.
When I was processing my photographs from our Paris trip, I noticed how many of them had blue and yellow hues. It seemed that all of Paris had blues and yellows at various intensities. The fish case photo may be an extreme example, but I found it pleasing.
Here is a shot of the display at l'epicier (green grocer). The vegetables were this vibrant and seemed at their peak.
Le boucher (butcher) shown below proudly displays his awards along with an amazing variety of meats.
Finally, another poissonnier offered the most amazing scallops both in the shell and shelled.
Often, when I am short on ideas of what to shoot on any given day, I step back into my comfort zone and find a way to shoot flowers. There are numerous locations in the Washington, D.C. area where one can find flowers and other botanicals to shoot, including the National Arboretum, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Brookside Gardens and the National Botanical Gardens adjacent to the U.S. Capitol. Sometimes the most convenient place to find flowers to shoot is right around the corner. Whenever I am shopping at my local farmers markets I always visit the flower vendors to see if they might have something unusual or something that simply strikes me as worth bringing home to shoot that day.
Last weekend during a trip to the Takoma Park Farmers Market in Takoma Park, Maryland the flower vendor had what had to have been the finest collection of blooms of the entire season. The variety and colors were spectacular and they drew me to them immediately. I happened to have a camera with me at the time and reflexively began shooting even before I purchased anything. After making my purchases - a bunch containing a variety of asters, dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias and chrysanthemums, and another bunch comprised solely of purple dahlias I headed home, eager to get to it.
My home studio is tiny. The space doubles as my home office and is cramped with the usual bookcases, computer equipment, couch, piano and boxes and boxes of photos left over from my film days. Amidst all this are my lights, stands, backdrops, camera bags and other photo equipment. I have figured out a way to assemble a functional tabletop shooting setup by weaving light stands, soft boxes, tripod, and all other manner of equipment together in what might appear to the uninitiated like a jigsaw puzzle. I use a re-purposed fly tying table (yes - I used to tie my own trout flies) as the platform for whatever I plan to shoot and position it in front of a crude but effective backdrop from which I can hang different colored drapes depending on what I want to be in the background of my images. For the images shown here, I used a Nikon SB-700 with a Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 on one light stand shooting through a Lastolite Ezybox Hot Shoe Softbox as my key light and a Nikon SB-600 with a second Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 shooting through a small white umbrella bounced off the ceiling for general fill. My Nikon D800E was on a tripod, tethered to my computer and activated by a radio remote.
I am fairly new to using Pocket Wizards and aside from wanting to get some good images from these spectacular flowers, I wanted to test different settings using the Flex Mimi TT1 and the AC3 Zone Controller to see if I could achieve subtle differences in the results from adjusting the controller. The answer is - yes you can! With the key light in automatic mode - full TTL and the same setting in the secondary light that was bounced off the ceiling, I noted that even with the second light dialed all the way down to -3EV I was still getting too much light from the secondary. When I switched the secondary light to manual mode things got interesting. Having found a setting for the key light the way I liked it, I could adjust the secondary (bounced fill) up or down simply by changing the setting on the controller - it was almost too easy. In post-processing, the need to enhance shadows or change the exposure selectively was almost completely eliminated thereby cutting down my time in Lightroom.
I plan to continue these experiments at my earliest opportunity and hope you like the images. If you have suggestions for me or other techniques you use that give you good results, please leave a comment.
Thanks for reading!
(c) Ronald L. Freudenheim - All Rights Reserved