Sunday, June 23, 2019

Bouquets To Art Pre-Event Photo

1/125 second, F 14.0, ISO 200, Focal Length 32mm (48mm in Full Frame Format)
Okay. This is how the photo was SUBMITTED. I was sent to publicize "Bouquets to Art", an event where local floral designers recreate 18th and 19th century paintings using real flowers. I wanted my photo to illustrate the challenge of combining real flowers, a vase, and the related props to create a three-dimensional tableau of a two-dimensional painting.  

To view source, click here.
I searched the Internet and found a suitable oil painting that could be re-imagined with a few suitable props. I would need an ornate picture frame (to hold the reference painting), a white vase, a candelabra, and some flowers. I was confident that everything on my wish list could be found with little difficulty. 

When I was told that there would be three floral designers (two from Hillsborough, one from San Mateo) I initially decided that the photo would be made San Mateo's Central Park, a suitable location with adequate parking. I would pose them inside a gazebo that was located in the center of a rose garden. By posing my subjects inside, the lighting solution would be much simpler.

I created this mockup with help from the Jack In The Box spokes puppets and then asked for approval from all of the stakeholders. Now I had to find a way to make this happen.

The Framed Painting: I borrowed an ornate frame with a window that was slightly smaller than 11x17 inches, the maximum size for a normal color laser printer. I saved the file on a thumb drive and headed to Kinko's where I made a color copy large enough to fill the frame's window. If you have to create a similar graphic, make several variations, each one slightly larger, because laser copiers won't give you a borderless print option. I then  trimmed the print, sandwiched it between the glass the the foam core backing panel from the frame, and called it good.

The Vase: A quick trip to a charity re-sale store got me a $2.00 round vase similar to the one in painting. 

The Candelabra: I found a sterling silver candelabra in an antique and collectibles store in San Mateo, and asked if I could rent it. The marked price was $105.00, so I was asked to leave a 50% deposit which would be returned, minus $10.00, when I brought it back to the shop.

The Flowers: These I would purchase at Trader Joe's an hour before the shoot. Since I was going "on location", I thought it safer to bring all the necessary props. It never occurred to me that flower arrangers have flowers, and could probably be asked to some a variety of colors.

Ready On The Set: By Friday morning, neither of my Hillsborough subjects responded, and my San Mateo was only available for an afternoon shoot. Rather than drag my lone subject to the Park, I arranged to make the photo in her neighbor's back yard. If you examine the photo carefully, you can see that I'm under a covered back porch. I attempted to align my subject with the only portion of the garden that could serve as a suitable background while being careful to stay off the lawn.

1/250 second, F 14.0, ISO 200                 1/250 second, F 14.0, ISO 200                 1/125 second, F 11/0, ISO 200
In the first frame you get an idea of how dark the background would be rendered at 1/250 of a second. The second frame shows the key light (Godox AD200 with a bare bulb head in an E-Z Box), and the third shot with a lengthened exposure time with a shoot-through flash for fill, which you can see at Camera Left.

You will notice that a landscape composition wastes a lot of space when there is only a single subject.  I would eventually crop the image to a square format to give the editor a little latitude when it came time to fit the image on the page.

I had one flash left, and thought I could use it to brighten the shadows in the background to improve the visual separation. Since I didn't want to walk on the lawn, I couldn't get enough light on the background shrubbery, so I decided to instead create a "kicker" light by directing the light towards the back of my subject's head. Ideally, the light would be placed directly behind, and above, my subject. I settled on this shot where the light stand is visible (sadly) visible in the frame (see image at the top of this post). The light stand was positioned to prevent a highlight on the subject's nose. See below left.
Actual Photo: flash on light stand                                               Future Photo: flash on boom   
Ka Boom! My next task will be to find a way to include a short, lightweight boom in my rolling kit. If I had one, I could have placed the light by the subject's right shoulder, just out of frame, and have the kick light coming from above, and very slightly behind, the subject. This wouldn't require a long boom arm because it would only need to reach half-way across the frame. See above right.

Incidentally, I sent the photo with the lightstand intact. All of the images that I submit for Journal publication cannot be edited to remove visual content. The light stand was there, and (sigh) I must therefore include it. The few edits I will perform are to ensure proper rendition of both shadow and highlight areas.

Epilogue: It is unnatural to create a photo with excessive visually "dead space". As a lark, I re-cropped the image as an 8x10, cloned out the light stand and cleaned up the background a bit. When viewed this way, I believe my efforts to create a meaningful foreground were successful.

True to form, the paper did crop the image to a landscape format, and in doing so eliminated nearly all the details I tried so hard to preserve. 

Next time, I think I can use the Adorama Flashpoint Mini-Zoom that already lives in my camera bag as a kicker. The flash has a rotating/swiveling head, variable power, a choice of radio or optical triggering, and its compact sized. Now I just need a lightweight boom way to position it. Stay tuned.