Photographing a fruit-themed still life against banana leaves
In college I never understood the obsession my photo-Illustration classmates had with surfaces.
They practically lived in the studio.
They spent hours learning how to light, pick props, arrange those props on a backdrop of some sort.
They often reshot again and again each time consulting with their instructor.
Sometimes it would be around a theme, other times they would be working on an ad for a fictitious product.
I remember one particular fellow who combed flea markets, thrift stores and junkyards for flat pieces of wood, strange plexiglass and other odd flat objects.
Over time, the communal studio became a pigsty because no one wanted to throw those treasures out.
So one day I sat him down and asked.
He explains he always starts with a blank canvas so that’s a backdrop where props are placed.
An example would be an interesting piece of wood with texture and then build from there.
Then he brainstorms and figures out what will work with his backdrop.
Is it working in reverse?
Some photographers find objects that share common physical appearances then build a composition around it.
I thought about this approach and I’m using it to share how I photographed some fruits I bought for under $10 in my messy garage.
Is starting with the backdrop a strange approach? You tell me.
Banana leaves as a backdrop for a still life
If you live or grow up in the tropics, you may be familiar with how indigenous people tend to utilize every part of a plant.
I’ve always been fascinated with the banana plant.
Besides the ghost stories of my childhood that suggest evil spirits dwell in this plant, I love the way banana leaves feel.
They are waxy and water proof, translucent and are a wonderful shade of green.
They are big enough to use for wrapping food or as plates, so why not as use banana leaves as a backdrop?
I had no access to any banana leaves until a few years ago when I spied a tree in my next door neighbor’s yard.
Since they are not native to California, my neighbor’s banana plant doesn’t always have the best looking leaves year round.
I am fortunate my neighbor has told me I can just help myself whenever I need some.
Working in the clutter of my messy garage, I chose to work with very directional available light.
There is a door and then there are windows in the garage door.
- 2 Canon Speedlites–both set on Manual setting.
- Canon 5DM2, using a 50mm lens and 17-35 zoom mounted on tripod
- Off-camera cord for triggering 580EX II Speedlite as Master and 430EX as Slave. Both on Manual power setting.
A fruit theme
The perfectionist would not get started because finding the perfect specimen for any fruit is next to impossible.
Bananas maybe plentiful and easy but they bruise very easily as I found out when I shot an illustration using bananas.
In a commercial setting, there would be a stylist whose main job is to make sure the food is impeccable.
In my high budget ($10) production, I was pretty happy with my results.
Sure, there’s always room for improvement.
It’s a decent start or maybe not.