A Visit with Cora and Sophie

Cora-and-Sophie Recently I visited Cora and Sophie to photograph them with their chickens.


Sophie, age four, is an expert when it comes to holding chickens.

Bunnies,-chickens-and-eggs I only spent about twenty minutes with them, and it was all click-click-click. After I'd take a picture, they'd say, "Look behind you!" There was so much going on. Their busy farm is in an ordinary backyard in Pleasant Hill, California.


H A P P Y   E A S T E R !

Framing an Egg

C & C Photography Assignment #1, Spring 2010


A shawl, with a graduated color change, inspired the background for this first set of egg shots. I thought it would be a fun way to show and tell how I use my southern exposed window to capture light for still-life. I've tried to do this several times, but seem to always leave something out. Today it's all here– a bit long winded, but hopefully useful.


First of all, there are four aspects to still-life photography– subject, horizontal surface, background, light source.
  • SUBJECT–– The egg is a handy stand-in that allows concentration on the background. If you are not sick of eggs by now, you might want to try this exercise.
  • HORIZONTAL SURFACE–– I lifted the table, so I wouldn't have to stoop while shooting (I usually use a taller stand). A hamper, from my closet, with a piece of plexiglass on top, did the trick. Then when I needed an even higher surface, for the last two shots, a clear plexi box was set between the table and another sheet of white plexi. See below.
  • BACKGROUND–– I like to manipulate the horizon line as I shoot, and a long piece of fabric, like the shawl, allows for flexibility and experimentation. A 3-part folding screen (only 2 panels show) provides a surface for the background fabric, and an armature for draping a curtain reflector. In the first five shots, the shawl's fringe adds background interest. I was eager to use the shawl's color blend, so in the next four shots, the shawl was pulled onto the table, in a gentle curve. In the tenth image, an obvious horizon appears, by dropping part of the shawl behind the table (the rest is still hanging from the screen, with the white part in the photo). In the next two images, I switched to the blend again. Then in the last two, I wanted to capture the rich color in the blend from the other end of the shawl, in the background, with a horizon line. I had to pin the other end of the shawl to the panel. See below.


  • LIGHT SOURCE–– In the set-up photos above this one, at left, note how harsh the light is, and how deep the shadows are. The first five photos were shot in this light– the temperature is cooler and the images turned out darker than those that follow (they had to be lightened in PS). The remaining images were shot with the handy curtain reflector, which acts as a softbox. There are two curtains, one is opaque cotton, which is draped over the table, and supported by the folding screen. The second curtain is sheer cotton, and covers the window– I slide it back and forth to manipulate the light.
How about a magic carpet?

It's a magazine page! Decorating magazines often have entire pages covered with lovely fabric or carpeting images. If your subject is small, backgrounds can be pretty luxurious. (If the magazine image shows in its entirety, give a source link.)


Egg-and-Tuteur A few mornings ago, I noticed that the egg, from my first post, was still on top of the fence. Through the lens, I lined up the egg with the top of the tuteur and, without moving the camera, used AF (auto focus) points (first on the egg, then on the tuteur ball) to change the focus. I had my camera for more than two years before I learned to use these!!! (I'm trying to make a point here.) Now I would be lost without the use of AF points. Look up AF points (or focus confirmation light) in your camera manual (if you have an SLR and don't already know about them). You will be so happy to pin point your focus in different areas, once you start.

Now Let's Visit Cora and Her Chickens

Cora-and-EggsThe chickens had a conference– instead of laying their eggs here and there, and even hiding them– they decided to make a nest and put them all in one place. Did they know I was coming? Darling Cora Conner, age six, gathered the eggs into her basket, as I photographed from a small opening at the opposite side of the hen house. It was dark, but digital cameras are very cooperative, and sunlight peeked through too. Thank you Cora!

It's amazing how a project like this inspires the creative juices. Finally the eggs can take a rest. I can't wait to see the work of all our participants– I'm sure no two photos will be alike. In the glam nest photo, I used the same texture by Kim Klassen, that I used in the first assignment photo.