I always seem to be playing catch-up when it comes to recaps of light painting workshops… Things are just so busy here that it’s difficult to get around to getting it done sometimes. To that end, this recap covers two group workshops, both of which were quite successful!
Note *** In the first group, one student, Rob Goldsborough, asked us not to include his photograph in the workshop recap. This is because he photographed a specific subject relating to a book that will be published, and for this reason, we cannot show you his photograph prior to the book’s publication.***
Dan Gerth chose some very challenging subjects to shoot. Metal, glass, and a big range of tones, from black to white. In the workshop, we work with a backlit scrim to get beautiful graduated reflection in glass and chrome, and that came in very handy for Dan, who needed to control the brightness of the chrome tripod. Dan allowed the tripod legs to trail off into darkness, as bright elements leading off of the frame tend to be distracting. Dan employed a good technique to get some nice reflection in the lens of the Leica… he placed a small piece of white paper in front of the lens (not between the lens and the camera, of course), and then lit the paper with the diffused flashlight, creating the reflection.
Photograph by Dan Gerth
Steve Maxx chose to photograph a beautiful antique folding camera from my collection. The brown, brass and black areas are such a gorgeous combination. Steve decided to use an old door as a background, which works so well with the colors and textures of the camera. He employed the same technique as Dan did… Using a white piece of paper out in front of the lens to create the reflection in the lens. He really did a beautiful job lighting the front lens panel and front standard of the camera, as well as the bellows. Steve deftly composed this image in a short time, and did a terrific job of lighting it!
Photograph by Steve Maxx
In this image, Manouch Shirzad had to deal with a wide range of objects, in terms of their reflectance. The glass flash tube and flashbulb were lit with a diffused scrim from above, but in order to get a subtle reflection on the right side of the flashbulb, he, as in the previous two examples, placed a small piece of white paper to the right of the flash tube and lit it with the diffused flashlight. This placed a soft reflection on the right side of the flash tube. The gear was lit with a diffused flashlight, as were the Kodak boxes. The difference in brightness between the boxes, the glass and the gear would normally present issues, but in light painting, as we control the dynamic range of the image, we aren’t worried about placing very dark and matte objects next to bright and/or reflective objects. Manouch realized that in shooting something like a box, it’s a challenge to make sure that each panel of the box has a different value so that the shape is apparent. I really like the subtlety with which he treated the top of the wooden box that everything is sitting on.
Photograph by Manouch Shirzad
In searching through the props that we provide for each workshop, Charles Meacham found the gnarliest lime I’ve ever seen! It’s a great counterpoint to the silky smooth surface of the tomatoes. At first, Charles attempted to light all of the tomatoes in one capture. He soon found out that in lighting each tomato, he was creating highlights in the other tomatoes in places that he didn’t want them. He ended up shooting each tomato in a separate capture, in order to keep the lighting on each one just exactly as he wanted it.
Photograph by Charles Meacham
My collection of props contains some very interesting objects… Sean Hoover picked out two hip implants from the collection, and decided to photograph them with a vertebra. Again, a tremendous variation in reflectance. The implants are essentially chrome and titanium, and being spherical, the chrome parts required an extremely soft light source, in this case, the scrim backlit with an LED panel. Metal and glass are seemingly difficult things to light, but my students find that they can be lit beautifully with a very simple technique. A very small touch that Sean used effectively was to place a small highlight on the tip of the front implant. Although quite small, this little highlight really pulls the tip of that implant forward.
Photograph by Sean Hoover
Two months later, we had another group workshop, and below are the results.
Sean Sauber decided to bring some of his collectible pens to the workshop. Although I encourage students to bring their own objects to workshops to photograph, it’s something we always talk about beforehand to avoid students bringing overly complex objects. The pens that Sean brought are beautiful, but presented some lighting challenges given their glossy nature. The black pen with silver trim is a great example of how, in light painting, we can render two very different surface types with detail everywhere. We do this by lighting every element with just the right amount of light for that particular element, be it light or dark or reflective or matte. Sean brought a camera that wasn’t easily supported by tethering software, but he was very willing and able to find a workaround and was able to tether after all. I was very impressed by his troubleshooting skills!
Photograph by Sean Sauber
Brian Zwit was a real self-starter, quite adept at composition, and put together his still life with very little need for input from either John or myself. The color scheme of his image is quite nice, as well as the combination of surfaces. I remember that Brian decided to light the top of the roses a little more than the lower roses, which helped maintain the feel of the direction of the light. Brian’s image has a beautiful softness.
Photograph by Brian Zwit
One of the things that I find so rewarding in teaching workshops is to see students create compositions that I would never think of creating. This may sound rather egotistical, but what I mean by it is that I love to learn from my students. I learn that my way of thinking about composing a still life is not the only way, nor is it the best way… Larry Street created his composition out of reflective subjects…even the background is reflective… And there is something about the way the shapes relate to each other that I find very interesting. Larry talked about Salvador Dali and M.C. Escher, and how, in his photograph, he would like to combine objects that had nothing to do with each other (with the exception of their surface qualities), in order to create an image with a suggestion of the surreal. I think he was successful!
Photograph by Larry Street
In this image, Sujinder Pothula overcame several composition challenges, and had a very difficult set of objects in terms of lighting. He really had to think through how he was applying the light in order to create depth in this rather complicated image. The motorcycle alone was quite complex. Of course, I was very happy to see him photographing BMW related objects, as I am passionate about my BMW motorcycles! Great job, Sujinder!
Photograph by Sujinder Pothula
George Riling created a beautiful composition here, with a lovely color scheme. The pewter and background provide a wonderful monochromatic foil for the colors in the image. When I look at a still life shot from a camera angle like this; low, almost level with the subject, I always think about architecture and how one might design a skyline for a city. Here, George created a wonderful sense of height variation with his subjects that works quite well.
Photograph by George Riling
Both of these workshops were terrific ones, and John Corcoran and I both enjoyed them very much.
This has been a very busy year. We will be doing recaps on several other workshops that have taken place this year… stay tuned for those updates! Until next time!
To see more student images from my workshops, click HERE.