The Camera Club Chronicles #2 – ‘Still Life’

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Following my first post about camera club photo submissions and the feedback I receive, here is the next one in the series(?) 🙂

The theme this time was ‘Still Life’. It’s a photography subject that I have probably done many times in the past, but mostly when making tests and experimenting. I don’t think I’ve ever seriously created a still life scene with any serious intent. I’ve been giving it some thought after attending a great introduction to the topic at the club; I planned to think up and create a scene with some obvious or hidden theme… a meaning, feeling, symbolism, …

…but I ran out of time and so quickly had to throw something together. What did I have that looks interesting – old tools! I like to collect (and use) old tools, they are very appealing both aesthetically and the way they function.

Wet plate collodion was my process of choice and, as always, I was running out of time (light). I could have used artificial light, but getting the lights out of the cupboard was a bit beyond my motivation at the time and there was a bit of sunlight and calm(ish) weather to take advantage of.

I used the inside of a wooden box as a suitable and interesting background; it saved me from having to think about the background as it provided the bottom, side, rear and top surfaces. It also blocked any vertical light, which illuminates the subjects with a more interesting directional light.

Running out of time I didn’t give the composition a huge amount of thought, but I was relatively careful and made some adjustments after viewing the scene through the ground glass. However after seeing the final result there are several changes to the scene that I would have made if I had more time. Here is the result:

“Forgotten Tools” – Still Life Theme Entry

This is a scan of the resulting ambrotype and I chose not to flip it horizontally (note the text is reversed). To be honest it didn’t actually cross my mind to do so. More on this in the judge’s interesting comments.

The judge this time was quite different from the norm. Perhaps to the detriment of some entertainment, he is a good friend (and excellent photographer and judge) at the club who knows all about my wet plate collodion antics and has also taken part in a wet plate workshop and so understands it first hand. He therefore immediately recognised it as one of mine and so probably added some merit knowing what is involved in created such images. No humorous misunderstandings from the judge this time.

Judge’s thoughts:

It’s a wet plate collodion, so we know who’s done that don’t we James?

This is a scan of the plate, now what I did is I reversed the image so you can now see the writing. To me, the original scan sets up a mental confusion; there’s something about it that says there’s something not right about this image.

[Horizontally flipping the image] I think makes it better and the reason is that we’re used to reading from left to right. To me, it now has a better balance than the other one, which I found really strange.

It’s a very interesting comment and he is absolutely right. I mostly set the scene up without looking through the camera ground glass and so everything was ‘the right way round’. So I instinctively arranged it so that it looks best from left to right. I was so used to looking at the scene that I was a bit blind to the resulting composition of the reversed ambrotype and so I didn’t consider flipping it after the scan. I have to say it looks much better flipped.

A good result too – I came joint third! (see the other entries on the Kelso Camera Club blog) Although I think I was at an unfair advantage with the choice of judge. 🙂

Here is the image flipped horizontally:

Until the next theme…

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