Subject, subject, subject…

Still Life With Pear and Tools

Still Life With Pear and Tools


Canon 5D3, 24-70 lens at 48mm, 4″@f/8.

Lighting: upper left from a diffused continuous lamp covered to give a sliver of light. Small desk lamp back right to give a slight rim on the pear. Shot against black with lots of bits of card to control light.

8 shots focussed at different points then aligned and focus stacked in PS6 after RAW processing in LR4. Background texture is a wall shot blended using Lighter Colour mode and brushed off the subject by hand. Final image worked through a bleach bypass and then darkened below the table and to the right using curves adjustment with gradient masks. Finally a shaft of light was created on the background layer by using a further curves adjustment with a reflected gradient mask.

The technical aspects are less of a challenge now as there isn’t that much too it. As always there is more to learn. I should have taken a shot focused on the back of the table as it’s not logical for the back of the table to be out of focus but the background wall to be in focus!

For me the biggest challenge remains subject. What to make images off or more importantly why make this image. Landscape work can fall back on the “because it’s there” argument to justify itself. Still life is harder. “It” is only there because you put it there so it is impossible to dodge the question “why?”. What is it that you want to say through the image?

So here I have to confess that I was making it up as I went along. I had some interesting old tools and a slab of rock so I arranged them using some judgement and some application of compositional rules. The kids were demolishing pears and I needed something curvy to finish the shape I was looking for so I saved one and added it to the arrangement. That’s it. No plan.

Where does that leave things? It would be nice to say that there was some artist’s vision that dictated the materials and the composition. Perhaps that would give the image some gravitas. On the other hand, perhaps there were subconscious processes at work here putting the unchanging and eternal material beside the organic and impermanent pear (which has since been devoured) as a comment on the frailty of life. A retrospective justification indeed!

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