5/52: As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary; a still-life is a photograph, painting, or drawing of a carefully arranged group of inanimate objects. Our challenge this week is to create a carefully thought out still-life image. The nice thing about a still-life, is you can take your time to make sure every aspect of the image is as exact as you want it to be. This means the composition, lighting, and subject matter. Just as a couple weeks ago, we were to ask ourselves why we're creating a particular image, I am going to pose this same question. Why are we creating this image? What is the story behind it, or the story we're trying to tell? Is it about conflict or harmony, pain and sorrow, joy and happiness? This is an opportunity to let your creativity take over, and see where it leads.
Not all still-life images are those that are arranged perfectly on a table, with the absolutely perfect light. They can also be what is referred to as "found". Meaning those same characteristics of a "created" still-life can be randomly found in any number of places. A grocery store, flower shop, your work, in the kitchen, a library...you name it. Those opportunities are given the same consideration as those created. Pay attention to the details, the quality of light, subject matter, composition, etc..
What will the subject matter be? Whatever it is you want it to be. It can be lit using natural light through a window, continuous light from a lamp, or flash/strobes (if you have them). Have a look on Pinterest, Google, Flickr, or 500px for some inspiration or ideas.
Light will become important to the overall look to your image. Just as important as the light is to a scene, so is the lack or absence of light. Pay attention to the shadows, in particular where and how they fall. For a softer, wrapping light that falls into shadow more gradually, use something to diffuse your light or use a larger light source (relative to the subject). For harder light, with fast fall off into shadow...use a smaller light source or move it farther away from the subject. Remember, the further the light source from the subject, the less power or intensity. This is where the Inverse Square Law comes into play. Simply put, the Inverse Square Law states for a given distance, light intensity will decrease at an exponential rate. The Inverse Square Law uses a simple formula of Intensity=1/Distance2 to calculate this intensity. This means, at one foot the intensity of light will be 100%, as we move the light source further away from the subject it falls off dramatically. For example, at one foot the light intensity is 100%...at two feet, that same light is now 25%, or 1/4th the power it originally was. At six feet, it now has 2.78%, or 1/36th the power or intensity. Use this to your advantage!
TIP: For a hands-on, practical exercise in identifying, or seeing this light, try the following. Remove a lampshade from a lamp, Place your hand next to the light bulb and make note of how the light falls on your hand. See how it wraps around your hand, and how the transition from light to shadow is gradual? Now, move your hand one foot away from the light bulb and make note of how the light interacts or falls on your hand. It should create a harder, split light that falls off to shadow fairly quickly, and with much less intensity as before.