Still Life Breakdown: Corn in Virginia

Still Life Breakdown: Corn in Virginia

This past weekend I was privileged to hang out with a bunch of photographers in Virginia. It was not a workshop, it was a hangout-and-shoot-your-ass-off weekend. Stephen and Michele were the gracious hosts who put it all together, and we had a blast.

Saturday had us shooting a wide variety of talent they had booked, and we shot in a very nice little studio in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia. The weather cooperated and we had a couple of lovely days to shoot outside and in the studio.

More of those images on this Sunday’s dispatch “In The Frame” which you can sign up for free right over there on the right. We don’t spam you and we let you know if there is something for sale. Most of the time it is just a lot of fun, and stuff you will not find on this site.

One of the attendees, Bob Knill, wanted to step up his game in the still life / food arena, so he came prepared with two fresh ears of corn snapped up at the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. (If you live near Fredericksburg, you really should check it out – Saturday mornings near downtown.)

We are going to take a look at this image from a different perspective… we are going to deconstruct it from finished to start. Instead of starting with the corn and adding in what we did, we will look at what happens when we take things away.

(I should mention that these are straight out of the camera with zero adjustments or modifications. They were processed from Raw in LR5, and exported to PS for JPEG.)

First let’s set the stage:

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You can see all the major players here.

  • The main lighting is the scrim placed just above the set. That is lit by a small softbox about 4 inches from the scrim to make the light have shape. Backing it off fills the scrim, but moving it in close creates a hot spot on the scrim and lets Bob focus the main part of his light wherever he wants.
  • The second light is an unmodified speedlight on the left, passing through a glass block placed very close to the set.
  • Notice the glass block has a black card on the speedlight side and one on the corn side. Those small cards are helping to shape the light as it comes through the glass block. It also keeps unwanted light from spilling around the edges.
  • There are two small white cards propped up in front of the corn. They are adding a bit of fill, and something for the glistening corn to reflect on the shadow side.
  • Bob is shooting tethered here so he can see the nuances of his lighting.

The set is quite small – less than the coffee table we were shooting on. He set his shutter and aperture on a setting that assured no extraneous light would be added by the ambient.

ISO 200, f4.5, 1/60th of a second with a 50MM lens were the chosen tools and settings.

The first shot is with all the gear set as in the BTS above. Click on the images for a much larger experience.

Notice the smooth light, with delicate fill all around the corn. That is the combination of small speedlight and diffuser providing a nice ambient feel. The speedlight to camera right coming through the glass block gives the image some depth and interest, as well as shaping the top ear of corn with light and shadow. Notice how subtle the light is from the left.

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In this shot we removed the black cards that were on the glass block. The light is less nuanced, but still interesting. It is your shot – make it your way. With the cards no longer shaping the light, the fill cards in front are now brighter and providing more fill than when they were not receiving so much of the speedlight from the left.

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Now we remove the cards from in front of the corn and it goes much darker in front of the corn.

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This shot is with the light to camera right shut off. Now the only light is from the diffuser and the small softbox above the corn. This has a very soft, natural light look to it as well.

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On this shot we removed the scrim and just used the speedlight in the small softbox. You can see the entire feel of the ambient is now gone. This has a very point-source feel to it.

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Interestingly enough, you may like any one of these for your work. There is no one way or right way to do this stuff. Experiment and have fun creating your own versions of how you want to light.

Bob spent a couple of hours on this, working out exactly what he wanted to do, and doing some cool variations. I hope he shares those on his blog when he is ready.

This shot shows how the little shelf blocked some light behind the set so it would create a shadow and some fall off for the background.

Paying attention to the smallest details is what this type of photography is all about.

BTW, it is a blast to work with subjects and light like this. Try a couple ears of corn or a head of broccoli or whatever you like. Blend the light, make the light do what you want it to do and don’t give up at the first shot. Keep working it till you get what you want.

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Another shot of the set.

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Sort of a ‘spy-cam’ feel, eh?

OK – see you next time.

BTW, if you would like to see more posts like this, please let me know. I am happy to do them.

 

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About 

I am in love with light.

Also known as Don Giannatti, photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amherst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and ezine with a slightly different slant than most photography related blogs. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out www.project52.org. Thanks for visiting.

3 Comments

  1. Hi Don,
    Thank you so much for this excellent post ! Definitively we want to see more articles on deconstructing beautiful still life images like this. I enjoy re-viewing your workshop on CL, and it´s always great to read articles like this with fine lighting details that make a difference in the final image.
    Thanks again for your generosity in sharing your knowledge.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Don. I really enjoyed this post and would also like to see more deconstructed still images.