Still Life Photography

Introduction:

Still life photography was a style of photography that I didn’t think I was familiar with upon first hearing the term, however after a little research it appears that I’ve been creating still life unknowingly for quite some time. I often photograph uninhabited buildings and as part of this also the items that are left behind, I’ll usually rearrange these items into a composition showing the viewer what’s left behind.

I decided initially however that I’d like to do something a little different to this, but still along the theme of ‘the abandoned’ as it’s something that fascinates me personally. After some research I came across the work of Czech artist Jakub Hadrava who placed figurines of ghosts in a dilapidated chapel in the Czech Republic. This was an idea that instantly inspired me, and I decided I’d set to work trying to figure out how I could make my own interpretation of his work. Finding a suitable location was easy for me, abandoned locations are something that I have a constant eye on and a rather extensive catalogue of, I decided I’d use Lawrence Street Methodist Chapel in Liverpool as my back drop. The chapel looks fantastic, it’s a slightly foreign looking design looking more European than most British Churches and is decayed rather beautifully after decades of dereliction. My issues arose however when it came to the figurines themselves, I just couldn’t get them to look Human enough, no matter how hard I tried them simply just looked like columns with sheets draped over them, even with people under the covers they didn’t look as effective as I’d hoped so this idea sadly had to be put to one side.

I still wanted to include Lawrence street chapel in this work however, so I decided that I’d re-think what I could do, and decided that I’d create a series of images showing items in their environments. It’s a similar idea to that of photographing what remains, however the items are not necessarily left overs, some have been added as props in an environment that dipects where these items would usually be found.

Photography

1. Lawrence Street Methodist Chapel, Liverpool

Starting off with Lawrence Street Methodist Chapel, where I originally wanted to do my set  of five’ghosts’ images, it is a real shame I couldn’t get those mannequins to look the part, the vision of them sat amongst the pews still looks great in my head. Anyway, shot one was taken from up on the priests stand looking out over the chapel. I didn’t need to bring any items with me to this one, the bible was still sat up on the lectern and a bottle of Holy water was also found in the basement and placed alongside it.

The lighting for this image is a mixture of three elements, natural light from the windows, plus a torch lighting the lectern with the Bible and Holy water in the foreground, as well as a spotlight used to light paint the rest of the chapel in the background. Both torches were diffused using toilet paper, perhaps not the most professional way of doing things, but it works when you’re on a budget! The light hitting the Bible and Holy water was a harder light than the soft light used in the background, this was intentional with the hope of a harder light in the foreground attracting the eyes. The image was shot at F4 for 30s at ISO 400. Ideally this image would have been shot at a lower ISO and for a longer duration of time, however I don’t yet own a self release timer for my Sony so a compromise had to be made. That said, shooting at ISO 400 although not ideal isn’t too big an issue on my A77MkII, Grain only really begins to become apparent at an excess of ISO 600. An Apature of F4 was chosen as this keeps the background details recognisable although clearly slightly hazy at 16mm (Crop Sensor) but ensures the Bible and Holy water are pin sharp and standing out from the background, meaning the eyes are brought in straight to these items.

Processing as a RAW file, the image was first given a slight crop to ensure the view of the building was as symmetrical as possible, after this the highlights were dropped as the light from outside had began to burn the window detail out ever so slightly. After this the saturation was boosted +1 just liven the image up a little. The image was then saved as a TIFF, and loaded into photo shop where the burn tool was used on words ‘Holy Bible’ just to allow them to stand out a little more, the image was once again saved as a TIFF, and if how you see it now below. Of course for print the Image would have its colour space changed from Adobe RGB to CMYK and be converted to a JPEG file.

_DSC26801-001.jpg
Lawrence Street Methodist Chapel – ISO 400, F4, 30s – RAW, Adobe RGB.

Filename:

MERSL0001.JPG

Metadata:

St Lawrence, Methodist, Chapel, Religion, Abandoned, Derelict, Holy, Bible, Water, Night, Long, Exposure, Dilapidated, Liverpool, Merseyside, Urban, City

2. Conisborough Drift Mine

This photograph proved harder to create than it may at first seem, the drift mine is located around half a mile from the nearest parking, which may not sound far but when carrying a bag full of props,camera, lighting and safety equipment soon begins to feel a lot further than it actually is. Access to the mine is a squeeze too, requiring getting on your belly and squeezing in! Once inside conditions are only worse, with the mine being a Victorian drift the passages are tight, the majority of the journey being made crouched down in pitch blackness. I wanted to recreate a typical mining scene by placing my props, a donkey jacket, lamp and tea-pot in one of the brick lined sections of the mine.

Photography proved a challenge in here, shooting in pitch blackness with only the lighting you’ve brought with you can prove a pain and many attempts were made before I was happy I’d created the image I wanted. Two light were used, again, both of them diffused with toilet paper, the first light was used to paint in the lamp jacket and tea-pot, the second was set up in a static position and fired in 3,5 second bursts to light up the working.The second lamp was left in a static position so that shadows would be cast in the working and also so that shadows from the props would be cast on the wall in my opinion adding to the image. The image was shot at ISO200, F5.6 for 30s at 35mm. I shot the image at 35mm with the intention of being able to show the drift working itself but still having my props as the main and central piece that the eye is attracted too. The image was shot at F5.6 again with the intention of making the background slightly hazy but keeping the props sharp, this way background details and the environment can be made out but the centerpiece is still clear. ISO 200 was again chosen over ISO 100 as a substitute to being limited to 30s exposures.

Processing on this image consisted of dropping the highlights and boosting the contrast by +1 as a RAW file, the image was then saved as a TIFF and a high quality JPEG.

_DSC2547.tif.jpg
Conisborough Drift Mine, – ISO200, F.5.6, 30s – Adobe RGB, RAW

Filename:

MERSL0002.JPG

Metadata:

Conisborough, South, Yorkshire, Drift, Mine, Eccles, Oil, Lamp, Donkey, Jacket, Copper, Kettle, Underground, Long, Exposure, Abandoned, Explore

3. Photographers set up, Home

Following on the theme of objects in their environment I thought I’d create a set up in my front room showing some of my vintage gear that I often shoot with. I’m fortunate enough to live in a house that was constructed in 1938, which helped add to the old school feel of the shoot, the Nikon S-2 Rangfinder camera is, in-fact the most modern item in this photograph. Alongside it is a Gaumont Kalee Projection lens built in 1940.

This scene was shot at ISO 200, F11, for 1/10s at 30mm. I chose to shoot the scene at F11 to ensure that the full image was in clear focus at 30mm, I chose to shoot at 30mm as this is the most zoom that I could acheive in the room with my back to the wall, I wanted some zoom to compress the image and give it a more closer to real life perspective ie. limiting distortion. The image was shot at ISO 200 as opposed to ISO 100 because I couldn’t get my tripod into the room sadly due to limited space, however with a quick boost to ISO 200 I found I could take the shot laid down on some cushions with my breath held at 1/10th of a second. All shot in natural light.

The processing of this image consisted of a small crop, +1 saturation and a slight boost of the image temperature, I didn’t record by exactly how many degrees kelvin but until the image looked correct by eyesight. After this the usually converting of the RAW file to a TIFF took place.

_DSC2712.jpg

Filename:

MERSL0003.JPG

Metadata:

Nikon, S2, Rangefinder, Camera, Leather, Brown, Back, SB-5, Old, Newspaper, Advert, Retro, Lens, Projection, Brass, Fire, Place

4. Life on the Conveyors, Ferrybridge ‘C’ Power Station

The theme of objects in their environments was complemented through visits to places of industry, in this visit, to Ferrybridge Power Station I was confonted by this lone shovel. To me this presented itself as a sort of absence of presence photograph, an idea that I tend to be drawn to photographically especially in places such as this that have just recently been closed down.

This image was shot at 1/100th, F1.7 at ISO 1600. Conditions in here, as you can imagine weren’t ideal for photography, however I am actually rather pleased with how this photo’s turned out. I knew that I wanted a shallow depth of field anyway, so shooting at F1.7 on my 30mm prime lens wasn’t an issue, and on a body like the Sony A77MKII shooting at ISO 1600, although not ideal, is nothing the camera can’t handle. The image has all the elements I intended to be sharp and infocus, sharp and in focus, and although there is some surface grain I beleive that it is quite complimentary to the image as it was taken in a dark and gritty environment anyway. The grain, if anything adds to this image giving it a gritty texture and feel.

In processing this image had the shadows lifted considerable, to bering out hidding details in the conveyor belts and walls, and then had the contrast boosted by +2 on the slider, just enough to add depth and tones to the shaows and to hide away areas of heavy grain build up. After this, I applied a filter called ‘Ortonish’ to the image and then faded the impact of the filter to around 10%, it’s hardly noticable, but it brigs out the oranges and blues a little more, and just darkens off the edges hiding a the remaining remnants of high grain build up. I don’t usually like to use filters on my images, but in situations like this, I find they do have their place. The image was then convereted from a RAW file to a Tiff.

_DSC3433.jpg

Filename:

MERSL0004.JPG

Metadata:

Conveyor, Belt, Coal, Preparation, Feeder, Shovel, Grit, Dirt, Dark, Industry, Ferrybridge, ‘C’, Power, Station, Shut, Down

Image 5:

Finally to conclude the still life section is another scene that I simply came across, all I had to do here was a quick tidy up, placing the boots together and hanging the shorts which where on the ground up on the locker. The scene is taken in the Bath House at Maltby Colliery, a now derelict area  that was once one of Britians last remaining deep coal mines. This image really hits home with me, when you interpret what you see before you as not just a pile of personal belongings but a mans entire career and lifestyle, left abandoned…

This image was taken at an 8th, F2.8 ISO 100. I wanted the image to have a shallow depth of field at its edge where the window can be seen to the right. I wanted this as I wanted the viewers main attention to be given to the objects on the bench and the lockers themselves. F2.8 gave me just the right amount of depth to do this with, as you can see the green painted wall on the side of the bath house and the window itself are not in sharp focus. The green wall and windown do add to the composition however hence they are still included. An ISO of 100 was selected to give me maximum qaulity, and the shutter speed of an 8th of a second to make up the exposure at may chosen apature and ISO.

During processing the image had the Contrast boosted by +2 on the slider and was then converted from a RAW file to a Tiff.

_DSC3182_1.jpg

Filename:

MERSL0005.JPG

Metadata:

Maltby, Colliery, Pit, Mine, Abandoned, Closed, Down, Industry, Coal, Dirt, Locker, Boots, Books, Leftovers, Personal, Belongings

 

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Still Life Photography

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