Posts tagged ‘still life’

Learning from Still-Life

A tulip and three apples

A tulip and three apples

I think there is saying which goes something like this –

‘If something is easy, then make it difficult. It’s the only way to learn’.

I regard myself as a reasonably competent photographer but I am always keen to learn new skills and try new techniques. In the very short time I have been making still-life images, the above words sum up my current feelings rather well.

Having given myself the challenge of trying a new photographic genre, it is already clear to me that making a good still life image is far from easy. Naively I thought it would be relatively straight forward. I would choose the objects I wanted to photograph, place them how I liked in the frame, and finding a suitable background shouldn’t be a problem. Lighting might be more of an issue, but again I was of the view that having some control over the direction and intensity of light would quickly give me the result I imagined. And processing the final image should be a breeze – or so I thought!

This image, ‘A tulip and three apples’ is the result of my fourth still-life session. Whilst I am more than pleased with the outcome, getting there was far from easy. So what did I learn by making things difficult for myself?

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Roses by the window – inspired by Josef Sudek

Recently I came across an image I had taken back in 2014 of a bunch of roses in a vase. They were on a window sill with rain drops on the window glass. I remember taking the shot with a large aperture opening to give me a narrow depth of field. Only one rose is truly in focus, so the overall effect is quite soft, but this works for me.


Roses by the window


When making this image I was reminded and influenced by the work by Josef Sudek. I particularly enjoy and admire his photography and his creative use of light in an image. A Czech photographer, he was born in 1896 and spent most of his life in Prague. He died in 1976. A year or so ago I was given a book of his work called ‘ Josef Sudek – Legacy of a Deeper Vision’. A beautifully produced book with many fine plates of his photography. (See a picture of the front cover below).





I was first drawn to his work when I saw his pictures of St Vitus Cathedral in Prague and later I enjoyed a series of photographs taken from the inside his studio which he called ‘The Window of my Atelier’. Condensation on the inside of the window or rain drops on the outside would often be a feature of this work. He would also make images of simple objects he had in his studio, an empty glass, an egg or a small vase of flowers. They were sometimes placed on a window sill and making the most of the light he would produce some very effective and almost ‘poetic’ photographs. He unquestionably made the best use of his immediate surroundings.

I have included a pictures of a couple of plates from the book, by way of examples of his work.






I seem to be spending a fair amount of time at the moment considering a variety of projects which I think could prove interesting. I already have my Churches Project underway and this will continue, but there are a number of others that could well occupy my time in the months ahead. As part of this period of consideration and planning, I like to study the work of other artists and photographers. This can be beneficial in a number of ways. It can certainly inspire, influence and be thought provoking; all of which can only aid creativity and help define the path ahead.

From all of this it would appear my approach to photography is going through a contemplative stage. I believe it’s all part of an ongoing process which aids the development of your own style and vision. What might be a good idea today, is often challenged by a counter thought the next – and so the process unfolds until the original concept is either scrapped or possibly pursued to a conclusion. With nothing decided it can be a little frustrating at times, particularly when the outlook is less than clear, but ultimately I think the results of this planning stage will prove rewarding.

You can see more of Sudek’s photographs by clicking on this link to my Pinterest board of his work