Monday, January 25, 2010

Photographing vases of flowers

click photo to enlarge
The subject matter of photography and painting overlap to a very great extent, which isn't surprising given they are both visual arts. (I'll leave for the moment the discussion about whether photography is an art or a craft). The earliest photographers, such as Fox Talbot and Daguerre, drew heavily on the precedents of painting, but as the new medium grew, it did find ways of looking at and recording the world that were its own. But, if you consider most genres of photography, such as portraiture, landscape, travel, sport, wildlife, abstract, semi-abstract, it's true that these are now traditional forms that are shared with painting.

Still life, too, is found in both media. The other day, however, after I'd been browsing the work of photographers ancient and modern, amateur and professional, it struck me that still life pictures of flowers in vases is a mainstay of painting, but is very rare in photography. Why is this, I wonder? It's certainly true that painters use the vase of flowers, bowl of fruit, etc as a technical exercise in light, colour, form, line and the rest. So why don't photographers? Moreover, a vase of flowers is both controllable in terms of composition and lighting, and is an infinitely variable subject too. Perhaps it's that a vase of flowers, as a subject, has become so associated with painting that photographers are reticent about using it. Do they see it as a dull, staid subject, not worthy of a click or two? Or do they not see the possibilities inherent in this simple idea? Whatever the reason, today's post is, if nothing else, a plea to photographers to consider the humble vase of flowers.

I've photographed this subject for a number of years, and quite a few of my efforts have featured in this blog. Today's shot is my, by now seasonal image of carnations, or rather, in this instance a single carnation. My aim with this image was to find a different take on the vase of flowers that owed something to the fact that it is made with a camera. This heavily foreshortened shot from above with the shallow depth of field of my macro lens seemed to fulfill that objective.

For anyone who is wondering what I've done previously with this subject here are six examples.

Chinese lanterns, red tulips, daisies, dead hydrangeas, heliopsis, carnations and verbena.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro, (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/15
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: +1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off