Ideas and their execution

Eventually every photographer gets the hang of their camera when they are able to control the basics: stop a subject in motion, control the zone of sharpness in their pictures.

Then they might get fancier experimenting with lighting the scene instead of just relying on what’s there.

Some arrive at this mastery sooner than others but eventually everyone gets it.

From that point on, what separates the artist from the casual snapshot taker is how good their muse is and how well they execute.

To simply grab an idea out of thin air is tough to do, especially day-in and day-out.

Not too long ago, while I was still working at the newspaper, I drew an assignment which really taxed me.

I mean I was really sweating on this one!

I had to create an illustration for a Health & Fitness story about aspirin.

To pile on the pressure, I was told it was going to be a cover.

I wanted so badly to ask for a pseudonym for a byline because I didn’t want my name to appear under a picture that was going to make me look bad. Who does? Can you blame me?

In college, our student newspaper “The Daily Kent Stater” had a pseudonym, Chester Bird, for exactly those situations when the photographer was too embarrassed to claim a picture as their own. I’m always tickled if anyone ever wondered how come that poor kid Chester never graduated after seeing that byline for years on end. Too bad, “real” newspapers weren’t allowed to do that. I could have used an “out” like that for several of my pictures.

I bought a huge bottle of aspirin and sat in the basement studio and peered hopelessly at one of these little white suckers.
Even with a macro lens, and shot very tight, an aspirin pill is just plain boring.

Of course, I read the article that was to accompany the picture, praying for some inspiration but the wire story  was dry.

No magic there.

Out of desperation and more likely, frustration, I emptied out the whole bottle and played with the pills.

I got a small tube of superglue, found a piece of clear acetate and started stacking the pills and gluing them one-by-one to each other and to the clear sheet of acetate.

At first, I was ambitious, but my super structure of aspirin collapsed after I had used around 80 or so. It jarred me back to reality.

Starting from scratch on something like this is no joke.

So I settled down and got serious.


About 2 hours later, after much experimentation with the lighting, I ended up with this picture.

I apologize for not having a better resolution picture.

This copy of a newspaper clipping is all I have. 😥

The single bare bulb flash was placed at about 30° from the plane of the piece of clear acetate to give me very strong side lighting so that the words “ASPIRIN” would appear.

The words are actually “carved in” if you take a close look at the pill.

Not an award-winning picture by any means, but it got me off the hook till the next time another illustration came along.

The image is what I mean by eye-candy, striking enough that a casual viewer after seeing the image might want to take closer look and read the story.

Mission accomplished? You tell me.


Timely Medicine–When I was done with this assignment, I swallowed a couple of these. See my chicken scratching of a diagram for how I shot it. Originally shot on Fujichrome 100 using a bare-bulb studio flash placed behind to the right of the camera.

6 thoughts on “Ideas and their execution”

  1. Liz,
    You’re just too kind. That aspirin picture was shot on Fujichrome 100, when Photoshop was still in its infancy.

    I’m not saying nuthin’ about your tv watching habits. Who am I to say anything when I still love watching re-runs of “Leave It to Beaver?”

    I’m afraid I don’t watch regular tv much, so someone else will have to do me this big favor of policing this “infringement” on my behalf.

    Like I said, I’m not particularly proud of the picture. It was only to illustrate how sometimes when your back is against the wall and you don’t want to be embarrassed, you come up with the craziest and zaniest ideas.

    I do want to thank you for reading and taking the time/trouble to leave your comment.

  2. I think I just saw this picture on “The Insider” on TV tonight. (OK, no comments on my choice of shows). It was a piece about some new diet pill in Hollywood called Clenphen (sp?). They showed a quick shot of pills piled up like this in the lead and then again in the piece. I’m staying in a hotel so I couldn’t go back and freeze it to get a better look at the engravings on the pills. If it wasn’t this picture, it sure was a close copy. I hope this was a case of flattery and not copyright infringement. I loved hearing about your creative process, Peter, and admired the outcome. The visuals were especially helpful. I can hardly ever explain my own creative process without sounding like I have some sort of personality disorder and my “process drawings” would probably be used to confirm the diagnosis.


  3. Shane,
    Sadly, you are correct about my drawing skills. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a great photographer. I’m passable. If you had my years of experience, you would be at this point as well. But thank you for saying so.

  4. In the realm of newsprint/journalism the best approach is simple, bold, graphic, and emotional. The best photographers I’ve worked with are the most thoughtful and creative. It takes visualization and planning. I think you did a great job creating a strong powerful visual. I would pause to see what the article was about.

    Great job.

  5. The newspaper clip may not be the best but it sure is inspiring. That’s some “out of the box” thinking Peter. Great photographer, so-so artist. Anytime someone offers up a diagram it’s appreciated.

    It really is eye catching.

Comments are closed.