Archive for the ‘ Still life ’ Category


Returning after a short break (at least from being featured here), we have more from compositional star Jenny Downing.


While the concept of a still life comprising a pair of empty wine glasses is nothing new, this has to be one of the best results I have seen in the area. As can be expected from Jenny, the placement of the subjects plays on golden ratios: one glass straddling the left horizontal, while the right divider sits perfectly atwixt the glazen subjects. Vertically, the primary golden ratios provide the containment for the main body of the containers, the lower being positioned at the top of the refracted patterns which perch atop the glass’ stems.

From a subject positional perspective, there is not much else to say. The image, however, has more going for it. Predominantly, this is in the form of the Chiaroscuro tone, offset by the subtler shades to be seen within the window’s light. That, negative space, balanced against the rim-lights of plates providing foreground interest, frames the subject very well, drawing the eye in to contemplate the distortion of pattern that decorates the subjects.

Perhaps the best use one can put wine glasses to…


PS, I love you

After a bit of a break, it’s time for the return of one of my favourite photographers: Aftab Uzzaman.

PS, I love you.

It’s not every day that I would pick out selective desaturation as a composition-enhancing technique. This work of Aftab’s, however, breaks many moulds. It does not emphasise the subject by placing it artfully on a golden ratio, but instead relies on the starkness of the red capturing our attention. In this, it succeeds well: the interplay between the drop readying to be released and its own effect within the clearness of the water – both cause and effect – hoards all attention.

It take quite an effort of will to look beyond the blindingly obvious to the other compositional elements that come into play. The easiest to discern is the use of negative space: in a world of black and white where colour is king, and there is so vibrant a dash of it, everything else – the entire greyscale scene – counts as negative space. Within this emptiness, we can then find the smooth contrast that defines the bottle, and its placement anchored within the corner. Also of interest is the depth of field employed: while the bottle may be sharp, the front of the glass is out of focus, with only the diffusing pattern of the wine within offering any sense of real clarity.

A most interesting still life.

En Pointe

Time now for a little levity from Claire McFarlane (missnoma).

It is not solely the playful title that works so well in this image. It is also the delicate composition that captures the same feel as the title plays on. It is hard to say whether the dominant compositional aspect is the triangle of seeds, shadow and greenery, or the strong diagonal that triangle sits upon. Indeed, they are interdependent.

But that alone would not be enough to make this such a strong composition. There is also the triplet – threes – and the fact that one of these elements, indeed the largest, is a cast shadow. It is interesting that only one of the three parts is mostly in focus, the other two being mostly out of focus, and this helps give the larger seed a touch of prominence. The whole, then, being anchored by the green in the top corner, the only splash of lively colour in the whole scene.

A wonderfully playful and simple still life.

we had no idea what we were in for …

Featured herein once before, my Flickr friend Kate Mmellersh returns with another powerful work.

Working with shadows of everyday subjects to create intriguing pseudo-abstracts is one of Kate’s fortes. She has produced many compelling works on that basis. Once more, here, she plays on the simplicity of a kitchen utensil – something we all take for granted, and allows it to come alive in an abstract way. The placement of the subject tightly in the corner of the frame, and the accompanying squeezed crop on the cast shadow allows it to dominate and express power: it is too great to be contained.

If the core subject of the image were the whisk itself, then the composition would comprise a significant area of negative space, but it the virtual instance of the utensil that is the real star here. This is achieved largely by the positioning of the dominant intersection of loops: vertically very near the mid-point, and horizontally on the right-side double golden ratio (1.618 : 0.618) – four lines coming together with breathing room about them. The general diagonal of the composition and the anchoring provided by the real whisk serve to enhance this.

The potential negative space is also avoided through the secondary light source, casting a softer shadow into the lower left corner of the image, and the use of slightly crumpled paper as the canvas. Together, they provide an exciting texture to occupy the straying eye.

An amazing completeness of detail from so simple a subject.

lost elephant seal

After a very long break, it is time for an emotive image from my Flickr contact Florian Sprenger (mav_at).

lost elephant seal

Death. It is disturbingly photogenic, when approached in the right way. There is a powerful story told. This is no exception: the form, large and sinuous, recedes out of focus to the depths of timelessness: a powerful S-curve (which is a very lively shape). The curve is subtle enough that it combines into two other compositional principles: the diagonal, and the triangle, both formed from the same skeletal elephant seal.

But it is the skull, dominant, that holds our attention, perched as it is on the disturbed texture of the foreground sand. Its stark tones and sharp focus pull it forward, assisted but the diagonal/triangle/S-curve of the body, which is itself framed subtly by the dark background elements in/near the upper corners.

And then, there is the mysterious organic detail to be seen inside the skull, through the nose hole. Some living structure that has survived the ravages of time, weather and scavengers.

Very emotive.


It’s not been a week, but time already for another offering from Jenny Downing.


The detailed pattern of a dried leaf is an easy subject, especially when rendered in silhouette. As here, even though it is the more passive colour, the structure catches the imagination, drawing attention. It is almost as though there is nothing else to be seen – all that wonderful green foliage is little more than negative space. There, the power of a tight depth of field.

The few specular highlights, refracted into rainbow patterns by the lens, add an intriguing counterpoint to the main subject – dynamic colour to emphasise how well the leaf manages to dominate only as a lace-work of veins in a skin of soft brown.

Wonderfully peaceful.

Is it an abstract…?

My return to posting coincided well with the return of Claire McFarlane (missnoma) from her tropical holiday.

They say that balance comes in threes – or any odd number for that matter. This is an excellent example of that theorem: the eye flits effortlessly between the three lines of wing, leaving the mind to wonder if it is real, or simply made to look like a butterfly (three wings, without a matching pattern between two of them does not sound right for a single butterfly – but what would I know?). That the wings pinch together more at one end than the other also adds a triangular element to the composition

The placement of this triplet of lines along the diagonal keep the whole abstraction contained within the frame, and the contrasting alternation of bright and dark banding between the edge-on layering of wings provides a sense of evolution and change as one’s gaze drifts across the line of the dominant diagonal.


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