Be still my beating heart

The subject of the latest Readers Photo Challenge assignment is Still life. Landscape and nature photographers find beauty in the great outdoors, portraitists are inspired by an interesting face and sports photographers are always looking for that spectacular action moment and intensity for their photos. In shooting a still life one has to take a different approach to find inspiration. You have to think on a smaller, quieter scale. The play of light and composition are important factors as are color, tone and shape. For this challenge 19 people sent a total of 65 photos. All of the best examples dealt with light in a thoughtful and creative way.


Chiaroscuro is a term most associated with 17th century artists such as Caravaggio and Rembrant. It refers to the use of light and dark in a painting for dramatic effect. Using a Canon Rebel T3i DSLR camera, Rick Jorgenson of Lodi employed a chiaroscuro lighting technique to create a stunning photo. He used just a 60-watt light bulb diffused with and umbrella and a hand held halogen spotlight controlled with a dimmer. The light is just enough to hold detail in the main composition while letting the background go dark creating a air of mystery and drama to a grouping of ordinary household objects. It looks like if could be a painting by one of the classic masters. Jorgenson took about an hour to set up he scene. His effort is evident. From the choice of subject matter to the careful placement of all the elements combined with the subtle yet dramatic lighting, it’s as close as you can get to a perfect still life photo.


Stockton resident Darrin Denison took a much more simple approach to his still life picture but was yet very effective. He used his iPhone to photograph an art glass pitcher in his kitchen. Illuminated by some simple window light the colorful glass stood out against a dark background in a chiaroscuro-like fashion. In a scene like this many people would have wanted more to the photo, maybe placing it on a table with other items around it, but it’s the simplicity that makes this picture work. Denison doesn’t overthink the situation and it pays off for him in a simple yet graceful photo.


I do this thing when I find some interesting light whether at home or out and about. I’ll reach up with my hand or a small object, such as a glass or cup if one is nearby, and see how the light plays on it. Sometimes I’ll take a picture of it, other times I will file it away in the back of my mind for use at another time. It looks a bit odd when I do it but my wife and family has gotten used to it.

St. Mary’s High School sophomore Sydney Spurgeon noticed light coming in through her family room window in Stockton. She took one of her family’s Christmas decorations and held it up to the light and saw that it created a shadow on a nearby wall. Spurgeon used her Nikon D90 DSLR to capture the elegant holiday scene. Playing with the light may be an unusual practice but after time I’m sure her family will get used to it too.


Connie Saculla’s photo of a single red Bartlett pear is similar to Denison’s entry in that it too takes the simplest route. Placed on a table in the living room of her Stockton home, the pear is situated in a shaft of window light. Saculla used a Panasonic Lumix Z56 point-and-shoot digital camera to capture the red/burgundy color of the fruit, which contrasted nicely with brown/tan of the table. The darkness of the shadows gives a nice deep richness to the photo as well.


Ann Scott of Stockton took a photo of a small pumpkin on her kitchen counter illuminated by window light. The sunlight cast a dark pattern of a shadow onto the polished marble counter from a nearby houseplant. It’s basically a black-and-white photo with just a splash of color provided by the pumpkin.


The challenge is going on a short break for a little while. The next assignment will be announced on Jan. 20.

This entry was posted in Column, Readers Photo Challenge and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form.
  • Categories

  • Archives