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 â€œThe Daily Kent Staterâ€ 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 storyÂ 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 30Â° 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.