Friday, 28 January 2011

Elements of design: Project - Points

Exercise: Multiple points

Aim:  The aim of this exercise is to create a still life starting with one object building up to many objects and to examine the changing relationships created by adding further objects.

Approach and results:

Still lifes are always deliberate and controlled rather than a random set of objects that look like the photo was taken by chance.  They are deliberately arranged but also deliberately lit.  I wanted to ensure I paid attention to both.  In order to capture a number of objects I had to use a reasonably high angle which can make the image look flat.  Trying a low angle, whilst more interesting, did not allow me to isolate the objects because of the clutter in the rest of the room.  For the background I used a drop leaf table that had a rich colour and grain but was not obtrusive, having a uniform and consistent surface.  For the objects I chose a cocktail theme as I have a large collection of interesting cocktail accessories.

For the lighting I set the table near some patio doors so it was naturally lit.  The sun was gradually moving round so I was able to control the lighting using the curtains and various other objects.  Without the direct sunlight the still life was flat with no depth to the objects.

I set the camera on a tripod using manually set focus, aperture (f22), ISO (400) and white balance.  Using the fold out screen not only made this easier but also meant that I could view and capture in black and white if necessary.

For the first image I used a glass on its own.  I took a number of shots but finally settled on the following image:

I used a red ball (used to identify your glass) as I wanted to use more of these later and thought this may reinforce any relationship.  I blocked out the direct sunlight but used a silver tray to bounce a patch of light onto the table.  The glass only has a relationship with the frame at this point.

Adding the top of a cocktail shaker made me reposition the objects (below).  The main relationship is now between the objects.  However, the lighting is flat and uninteresting.

Adding a third object creates more relationships.  I did not alter the position of the original objects in this image.  However, again the lighting was flat and I wasn't entirely happy with the positioning.

I decided to combine the three objects into two by putting the balls inside the shaker lid.  I repositioned them closer together and used the tray to bounce a patch of sunlight.  I prefer this result but am not sure whether they are now acting independently or as a single object.  There could be a relationship between the glass and shaker and between the balls. 

Moving the two apart identifies the objects as a single relationship especially if viewed in B&W.

Moving on to four objects, things got much more complicated.  Having been OK with this image on the small screen on the camera I'm not happy with it now.  There is no pattern and no focal or central object.  The measure could have been further back creating a diamond pattern or relationship or one object could be centrally placed with the others radiating from it.

Using five objects I created a more ordered pattern.  Viewing in B&W there is a clearer radial pattern arranged around the central glass fruit.  There is, however a size issue with this; the glass fruit appear too small to be a central object.

For six objects I rearranged things again.  I decided the menu cards were too dominant and the glass stirrers too small.  I also moved the cork screw from the glass to a point of its own.  I also wanted the lighting to be more deliberate so I used a shaft of sunlight through the image.  The glass stirrers effectively act as two objects joined by glass poles.  This creates a central object with points radiating from it.  The overall result is a more interesting and even composition with the lighting helping to create a hierarchical order to the objects.

Viewing in B&W the stirrers become less obviously separate but they, along with the glass, still remain the central theme in the image because they are positioned along the shaft of light.

Highlighting the relationships shows the radial composition.

Learning points:

As the number of objects increased there was a greater need for an order or pattern.  What seemed to work as the scene got busier was an almost radial positioning of the objects around a central object.  This could have radiated from the side but the important point is that there is some kind of order.

If I had used more similar objects, patterns would be more obvious and easier to create.  Still lifes are best kept simple!

This has been an interesting exercise as I have never tried a still life before.  I feel I have learnt a lot from doing this and would have much more idea if I was to repeat the exercise.

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