Still Life - Two Versions

Today I am sharing a still life image that I have photographed and processed two ways.  The setup is the same in both.

One challenge in the 2 Lil Owls Still Life Stories class is to shoot your still life image with different lenses.  I worked with my macro lens, my 50mm lens, lens baby lenses and my 28-300 lens, but I also played around with a Holga lens that I have for my DSLR.  These lenses are inexpensive and produce images similar to the old toy Holga camera.  These cameras and lenses, I have learned, are gaining in popularity among serious photographers.  

I love the look that they give, the image is soft, and there is some serious vignetting with this lens, but it also allows you to direct what part of your image you want the light to be on…..there is alot of trial and error since it is difficult to see clearly through the viewfinder.  If you want to learn more about the Holga lens check it out at B&H - that is where I purchased mine and I am not sure but I believe it was around the $20.00 mark.

I also shot this setup with my 28-300 lens which gave me a crisp sharp image.

Usually when I process my still life images I add textures and painting filters to give them a Dutch Master Painting feeling.

In the first image I used my 28-300 lens, I then processed the image using a lightroom preset from 2 Lil Owls (Still Stories preset 21).  I then took the image into Photoshop and applied a Topaz Impression painting filter (Cezanne II) at about 30 percent and added a texture on top of that.

In the second image I used the Holga lens.  I applied the same Lightroom settings and preset.  But when I took the image into Photoshop I only applied the texture.

For those curious enough to want to know about the texture it is one I shot myself of an old cookie sheet I have - more on Textures in another blog post (I promise)….


As you can see I was able to achieve two very different but similar looks.  I have to say that I am quite taken with the Holga version.  I love the softness of the image and the darker vignetting.  

So, if you are looking to give your images a different feel or just want to play around with a new “toy” (pun intended), look into the Holga lens.  When I purchased this lens it was really just a lark, but I now find that I am grabbing it when shooting still life and beginning to really love the look I am getting with it.

Fulfilling a Promise

Two posts in one day - Wow!  Unheard of right?  Well, one of my friends (you know who you are) went to my blog and read ALL of my posts in one sitting.  Whoa!  Anyway, she texted me and asked me to please fulfill my promise in an earlier post.  I had posted about a trip to Smokey Mountain National Park and photographing wildflowers.

In that post I promised to share how I overcame the issue of shooting wildflowers with my macro lens and reducing the movement from wind.  Anyone who photographs anything with a macro lens outside knows that the slightest breeze can throw your image out of focus.  I guess I just forgot all about that (insert blush here).  So, to rectify that blunder, I went back into my archives, found my images and am fulfilling my promise that I made all those posts ago.

So, here you go - if you want to read the first blog post it was posted on April 26, 2016 (yes, I know, 2 whole years ago) and is titled Finding Still Life In Nature.

Anyway, when I photograph wildflowers (or any flowers really) outside, it is ridiculous how much they can move with just a slight breeze.  Even if you don’t feel a breeze the flowers are moving.  So, knowing that I was going to the Smokies specifically to shoot wildflowers I tried to come up with solutions to problems I had in the past, one of them being the flowers moving.

I solved this problem by purchasing a small product tent - this is just a white mylar (I think) covered square box that diffuses light and you would use this when you photograph small products/objects.  You would place the object in the box and shine your studio light at the side or top of the box.  Well, I figured if it works for that why not wildflowers.  The only thing I had to change was cutting out the bottom of the box so that I could place it OVER the wildflower in question.  The enclosure really did help reduce movement from breezes, diffused the light and it also worked to hold my printed background up as well.  Below is a photo of my set up.

Now, of course this set up would not work if it was really quite breezy since the tent is very light, but then I would not be out with my macro lens at all in those conditions.  

A real bonus here also is that this tent is collapsable so it fits in my camera bag and is light so it does not add any additional weight.  If you find there is too much shadow you can just use a reflector to bounce some light into the tented area.

Here is my final image from this shoot.  It is not one that I particularly like (and maybe that is why I never did this post before), but you can at least get an idea of what I am talking about.

So, there you have it, my big secret to working on wildflowers with my macro lens.  I do hope it was worth the wait and I am so sorry it took me so long to get this posted.  

I would like to thank my friend for pointing out this omission to me and for keeping me honest :).

The Longest Winter Ever…..

Here in the Poconos, the winter just does not seem to want to let go this year.  We have had record low temperatures, record high snow fall amounts and not much sunshine.  But all that changed on Friday, we had sunshine and temps in the upper 70s and yesterday it was 82 (I was actually wearing shorts).  I set up my porch furniture and enjoyed a glass of wine with the hubby - it felt like a warm summer evening.  We even had a visit from one of the local bats (which of course sent me screaming inside).  Then…….I get up this morning and the temperature has dropped to 39, it is cold, raw and rainy out and according to the weather forecast it is not likely to get out of the 50s for at least the next two weeks.  What’s a girl to do?

Since I am relegated back to the indoors I decided to work on a still life story.  I mentioned in my last post that I am taking a Still Life Story Class from Denise Love (2 lil owls studio).  One of the challenges in the class is to come up with a tea or coffee story.  I have this cute little burlap bag with a coffee ad stamped on the front that I had found in an antique shop awhile back.  I had no idea how I was going to use it but simply could not resist getting it.  Anyone who photographs still life or food can relate to that I am sure.  Last Christmas someone gave my husband a basket of coffee items and one of the items in the basket was a bag of coffee beans (which I promptly confiscated) - so, I had my coffee burlap bag and a bag of coffee beans tucked away on my shelf.  While I know I could have just used those two items I really wanted to find an antique coffee grinder for the image I had in mind.  As luck would have it I found the perfect one while on one of my antique jaunts.  The second part of the challenge is to create a series of images that relate to one another and help support the story.  The collage below is a set of 5 images that came out of this session.

Even though it is cloudy and rainy, I still had some lovely soft natural light coming in through the french doors. I tried a grungy background at first - it is actually a large floor tile, (you can see it in the image in the upper left hand corner) however, I did not really like the way that background photographed, so I ended up using the crate idea as a background, I printed out a vintage coffee sign and taped that to the inside of the crate.  I had a piece of old cotton fabric that I used as a cloth and an old pottery mug that seemed to fit into the feel of the scene I had created. These images were all shot with my 50mm lens at f/4.5.  I also made sure to post process these images in the same way to maintain the series feeling.  I made my initial adjustments in lightroom and used a lightroom preset from 2 lil owls that came with the class.  I then took the images into photoshop where I added a texture I had purchased from Kim Klassen and a grungy framed edging that I had purchased from French Kiss.

So, even though I had no idea how I was going to use my little burlap bag, I ended up with a whole series of images that developed (pun intended) around a simple prop I found.  I will certainly continue to work this story with perhaps a different table top, background, mug and cloth and see if I can evoke a completely different feeling.   That is one of the benefits of collecting unusual props, you can create so many still life images from them.  Since I like to create vintage classic still life images I scour antique shops for props whenever I have the opportunity.  If I find an item that catches my eye and it is reasonable, I will buy it and let it percolate (haha) until an idea comes up that I can use it in.

I was hoping this post would be about a Spring photo series……however, flowers - lots of flowers, are needed.  I have heard a rumor that Spring IS coming……until then I guess I will just have to settle for my warm cozy studio and work with the props I have.

Wishing you all sunshine and warm days!

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