TWO SMALL STILL LIFES


There's a great tradition of still lifes of food: mostly painterly, but photographic as well. Normally the pictures portray the finest and  most luxurious of foods: a dead pheasant or hare was at one time de rigeur. They also tend to be on a grand scale. As you can see, the one below is not quite like that.



I was making (as I so often do) a brunch of pa amb tomaquet: toasted bread rubbed with garlic, dressed with olive oil, with tomatoes, anchovies, capers, basil and olives on top. The two tomatoes I used were a bit elderly, so I cut off the manky bits. I needed to start a new head of garlic, so there was a certain amount of debris from the outside of that too.

Frances had just taken the compost bucket up to the compost frame in the back garden; hosed it out; and put it to dry. I therefore dumped the tomato tops and garlic skin on a little tray that was lying around in the kitchen. Frances bought it for 50 centimes at a vide-grenier as a tray on which to stand a bonsai pot, but it didn't really work for its intended purpose. I'm not sure why it was in the kitchen, but these things happen.

Lately, too, I've taken to using two anchovies instead of one, so there were two fish backbones. I dropped them on the same tray. And there it was. A very small still life. Fortunately, since I bought the 55/2.8 Micro Nikkor for my Nikon Df  , very close focusing while still retaining excellent quality is not a problem. This is the big difference between a happy snap with a camera phone and taking a little more trouble.

On the other hand, I didn't want to go to the trouble of getting out a tripod, so I just took the tray over to the window sill, where there's plenty of light, and shot hand held. Another advantage of the Df  is that with 16 megapixels on a full-frame camera, high ISO performance is very good indeed, and I can crank up the ISO speed to ridiculous levels without running into too much noise. 

Well, I should have used a tripod, not just for depth of field but also so that I could have held a white "bounce" under the camera to reflect a bit more light into the underside of the garlic peel. A sheet of white paper would have sufficed, but next time I'm in town I'll go to a DIY store and buy some more polystyrene ceiling tiles: cheap, light in weight and colour-neutral. They just wear out, crumble and get lost over the years. 

All in all, it's a classic example of not taking quite enough trouble, and thereby missing the picture I really wanted. But then, as the authors of Art and Fear point out, surprisingly few artists actually want to create  art. They want to have created  art. They can see the final result in their minds, and actually turning their vision into reality is often a bit tiresome. That's where the short cuts and the failings come in. 



With the hobz biz-zejt  I had (again as I so often do) some red wine. I find that if I open a bottle, it's all to easy to finish it, so I poured a third of it into a 250ml jug, as seen here. Again, alas, the picture is let down  by a lack of attention to detail. The glass, of the pattern used in bistros fifty years ago, was intended to portray "shabby chic". Instead, it just looks shabby. I'm not sure if it would be possible to polish it properly: I fear it's just too old and pitted. In some shots it wouldn't matter, but in this one, back-lit, it's just not good enough. And again, I should have used a tripod. And maybe a bounce.

Now, you can say that from these shortcomings, at least I've learned more about what to do next time. The sad truth, though, is that I already knew most of it. I was just too lazy to do it, though I will say in mitigation that I was looking forward to brunch. This has forced me to think about how often my pictures are spoiled by laziness, hurry and a lack of attention to detail. I know I am not alone in these failings. This is why I've written the above. It's not just my pictures I'm trying to improve. It's yours, too. 


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Words and pictures copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2016