Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Still Life

For many years now, I've been wanting to do some photographs of still life. Still Life paintings are one of my favorite genre of paintings as I am always drawn to any of them when I visit a museum or leaf though an art book. The still life tradition dates to ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans (see frescoes from Pompeii and Herculaneum) and stays throughout the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Classical to Modern and Contemporary Art. Each period has its prevalent painters, but it seems that the 16th century is when it explodes and becomes a major force in art. More and more painters become interested in the "natural" world around them and hence try to record it. Most popular and well known schools of still life painting are the Dutch and Spanish ones with Caravaggio and Bruegel being the better known names of the period. I personally favor the Spanish style, which is more austere, simpler and more mystical in comparison to the more opulent and baroque style of the Dutch. So, a few weeks ago while looking though some art books, I discovered a Spanish painter of the 16th century named Juan Sanchez Cotanánchez_Cotán The few paintings that I saw of his in the book, plus the ones I discovered on Wikipedia, blew me way. I instantly knew that I found my inspiration and I decided to use his paintings as my starting point. Here is my first examples.

Some Portraits...

I've been hesitant to shoot people for the longest time, I didn't have a "concept" an "angle", and besides people talk back and most of the time don't take direction very well, unlike food for example, which stays where you put it and never argues :) But then one day, while playing with my kids and taking some shots of them, I stumbled onto a simple set-up which I immediately liked and felt that I could use to shoot some of my friends and family. It's basically a Rembrandt look, with its typical chiaroscuro technique: one soft light to the side of the subject which creates a light/shadow/light/shadow etc. effect. (chiaro-scuro means light-dark or see: The classical Rembrandt look requires the creation of a triangular shadow on the cheek opposite to the light, which means that the angle of the face in relation to the light has to be very precise. Luckily I am not such a stickler to rules, so my shots vary quite a bit from the standard. To my surprise, I found out that I actually am having fun doing portraits, and in some cases I am very pleased with what I got. So for now, I will keep on doing it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shooting food with hot lights?!! what's next: mixing oil and vinegar?

I recently ran into an old college friend whom I haven't seen in more than 10 years. We got together at my favorite restaurant, Marche (not the one in Costa Mesa, but the better one in Sherman Oaks), and come to find out that he's been shooting food as well. I guess for the last few years we've been competing for the same clients and didn't even know it. Anyhow, after much talk about broken marriages and old girlfriends and reminiscing about college, and jobs we worked on together when we did TV, we started talking about how we do things when we shoot food... equipment, style, cameras etc. To my total surprise and consternation I found out that he shoots with hot lights. Blasphemy in my book! True, not quite "hot" but more like kino flo's (florescent system balanced for daylight), but still "continuous" type of lights. I didn't show my consternation but,... I went home,... took my hot lights out and the next day I started to experiment. I forgot how much fun it can be to shoot with these things, primarily because you see exactly what you are going to end up with, before you even press the button on your camera. And, to my surprise, I got some pretty interesting shots, way different than what I usually do, but nevertheless nice.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Yoga with Cindi

Cindi, whom I met at a yoga class, teaches at Black Dog in Sherman Oaks. We became friends while sipping coffee after each class at the local MStreet Cafe next door and a few weeks ago she asked me to take some shots of her, doing yoga, to upgrade her website.
She wanted to do 12 poses, one for each month of the year (we ended up with about 50), so her students could follow a routine, have some kind of structure to follow each month.
Once I set up the lighting, it was a matter of just finding the best angle for each of her poses and pretty much staying at even height with her. The lighting changed from my original concept (what doesn't these days) and I ended up with a high key look which actually I like quite a bit. I flooded the back walls with two umbrellas to blow out the wall behind her, and all the light that spilled wrapped around her, beautifully. That pretty much became my key, and for fill I use two soft boxes on each side. That was it!
It amazes me what yoga teachers can do with their bodies, the extent they can bend and twist and stretch. It's absolutely beautiful! I have done some yoga for the last few years and I know how impossibly hard some of the poses are... especially when done with such ease, precision, and accuracy as Cindi is doing.