Out of the Dark 23 November 2021   

The club welcomed Simon Caplan LRPS back to the club to (in his words) 'throw a little light on the art of still life photography’. The recent lockdown restrictions meant that Simon has spent more time in his garage ‘studio’ and was able to further develop his still life techniques.
Simon began by showing some of the still life paintings done by great masters who understood the importance of light and composition. Later this tradition transferred to photography and Simon showed some work by photographers that he admires before introducing his own striking ‘renaissance style’ light painted still life images. By using a single light source such as a torch Simon has control over the way the light plays over the surfaces of the objects he has arranged.
Still life set ups can be simple or complicated but each must have a point of focus and the arrangement must lead the viewers eye through the arrangement. All the objects must complement each other in colour and size and be relevant to each other. Thought must go into the arrangement so that each object sits harmoniously with all the others. Look out for angles and the height to get the pleasing triangle shape. Keep to a simple and complimentary colour palette with no over bright colours. Backgrounds are usually plain so as not to distract and the base must be chosen with care to fit in with the style of the objects.
Simon collects interesting objects and keeps props such as pieces of fabric in a range of colours. Objects made of pewter or copper photograph well with just a subtle sheen but beware of very shiny objects and glass because you get unwanted reflections and highlights. Everyday objects from the kitchen or workshop can be used to great effect. Flowers, fruit or vegetables can be added so long as they fit in with the image the photographer wants to create. Simon says set it up and see if the colours and composition work well together – if not, then rearrange and try again.
Simon showed us a range of his superb images with their strong light and dark ‘chiaroscuro’ effect. Working in the dark and using a hand held torch or single light source Simon can ‘light paint’ the objects in the arrangement to get the best effects. With the camera steady on a tripod the camera is set to ‘bulb’ with the shutter open for between 20 to 90 seconds. Simon shines his light source directionally on the objects with just a little on the background just to lighten in places. With practice photographers can develop their own style and dark winter days are an ideal time to try out some indoor ideas.
Frank Collins thanked Simon for his fascinating presentation and for showing his passion for still life photography. PM
See Simon's interesting still life images Website