Of Things to Come - Tuscany

I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Tuscany recently to work with one of the photographers who has been a major inspiration to me: Damien Lovegrove.  How often can someone say they had the chance to learn from someone who’s inspired a major portion of their work?  I’d never been to Italy, and since I had the time and the funds set aside, I went for it!

Our base of operations was a villa just outside of Volterra, Italy.  Most of us had gathered on the patio of the villa after having checked in.  And as the sun was going down, Damien encouraged us to take some photos at sunset.  I saw these two glasses set up on a barrel, and with the sun going down, I took the shot.

ISO 200  50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 50mm  f/11  1/240sec

I liked the above shot a lot! But Damien came over to me and saw what I was doing. He asked one of my fellow photographers to pick up a wine glass, and Damien took the other one, then he told me to take this next shot.

ISO 200  50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 110.6mm  f/4.5  1/240sec

Voila!  Damien looked at the shot on my camera’s screen and said, “There! You just took a wonderful editorial shot!”

That was all Damien.  I had no idea what I was doing.  Or at least I wasn’t cognizant of it at the time.  During the following three days, I learned a lot from Damien about photography and light, some of which I’ll be blogging about over the next few weeks.  It was a wonderful three day workshop and a dream come true for me.  Damien is a generous person, freely giving his knowledge away.  Our model, Terez, was one of the best models I’ve ever worked with.  And my fellow photographers were such a joy and pleasure to get to know.

More to come on the workshop, and — of course — there will also be an “On The Run” blog entry as well, because … hey, it’s what I enjoy!

Product Photography for CaseCollective.Net

In an attempt to experience more of what it is to be a photographer, I decided to answer a Craig's List posting for someone looking for product photography of cell phone cases.  At first, I didn't really know what I was getting into.  After all, I've photographed mostly people and things in nature, but not products.  Or perhaps I have, in a sense.  Is there a difference between photographing a plant, or a flower, or even just a rock?  So that was my approach for doing product photography.  Sure, it would be challenging, because it would be indoors and out of my comfort zone, but you can't grow as a photographer unless you challenge yourself.

So it was a Saturday morning and I found myself at the business of Jennifer, who runs Case Collective; they design and sell cellular phone cases.  Clicking on each photo below will take you to her website.

This first shot was rather interesting in that Jennifer had set up a white board on which I could photograph the products. And she also provided some props which she purchased from Anthropologie.

ISO 200   56mm lens   f/2.5   1/210 sec

ISO 200   56mm lens   f/2.5   1/210 sec

I had to make a decision whether to shoot fairly wide open or not.  As you can see above, shooting wide open would mean really shallow depth of field.  And what was more important?  Having all cases in focus or just one?  Jennifer really liked the shallow depth of field effect, so I went with that.

The lighting in the shot above was achieved by me just balancing the reflector with one hand and shooting the photo with other.  I decided to use the silver surface of the reflector because it was bouncing the most light.  Outside was a very foggy day, which meant no harsh light blasting onto set.

For this second shot, I used the golden surface of the reflector.

ISO 200   56mm lens   f/1.4   1/680 sec

ISO 200   56mm lens   f/1.4   1/680 sec

I shot looking straight down on the items and braced the reflector with my legs, bouncing the light from the window and right down on the items.  I shot at f/1.4 in order to get a little more of the cell phone case in focus, and I wanted a slightly higher shutter speed as I was shooting hand-held and didn't want any blurring in the event that my hand shook.

For the next shot, I shifted back to the silver reflector surface.  I really liked the dalmatian stapler as a prop.

ISO 200   56mm lens   f/1.8   1/480 sec

ISO 200   56mm lens   f/1.8   1/480 sec

Again this shot was achieved hand-held, with the reflector being balanced in my other hand.  My focus point was on the cell phone's camera lens.  I could have stopped down the aperture on this one because most of the case was blurred-out, but I also liked the effect.  And to get the entire case in focus would have meant that the entire stapler would have been in focus as well, and I thought that would be a huge distraction from my main subject.

Interestingly enough, when I showed the above photo to two different people, one a fellow photographer and another one who isn't a photographer, they had differing opinions.  The photographer like the shot,  The non-photographer didn't because she couldn't tell if the subject of the photo was the stapler or the case.  I think both are right.  The photographer looked at it from an artistic viewpoint while the non-photographer was looking at it from a consumer viewpoint.

And what would a product photo shoot be without the below shot?

ISO 200  56mm lens   f/1.2   1/2200 sec  ND 8 filter

ISO 200  56mm lens   f/1.2   1/2200 sec  ND 8 filter

Even though the day was foggy, it was still too bright for the above shot.  I wanted to shoot wide open because Jennifer wanted a shot like the above, and she really wanted everything but the phone to be blurred out.  But wide open, my camera was well-beyond the maximum mechanical shutter speed of 1/4000 sec.  I need to cut the light going through the lens, so I popped on my ND 8 filter.  It was a 3 stop light reduction and cut the shutter speed nearly in half.  Who'd a thunk that even on a foggy day it could be so bright?

All in all, with was a great shoot.  I could definitely have done better, but seeing this was my first time and I was learning on the fly, it was a great experience!

Gear used:  Fuji X-T1 with 56mm lens and B+W ND 8 filter.