Photographing objects on location
Objects of Desire may be a rather strange title for a TipsFlick and Actual Info about photographing at a place like the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, MA. Desire may not have been high on the Shakers’ agenda, what with their antipathy to worldly desires like procreation. But they seem to have had great desire to create beautiful things, and they did. Our desire was to make good images of them.
But the beauty of many objects is in their form or details. You may not be able to get close, but your images can. Use a long lens to reach in and capture the spirit of the object(s). Many places do not allow tripods, so if there is not much light, rest your long lens on a railing, your camera bag, or anything that is handy. Even lie on the floor! If you can’t find anything with which to steady your camera, up the ISO. As you can see below, reaching in helps tell the story of the place and what people did in it:
Window light usually requires a slow shutter speed, especially if you want to get much depth of field. (Remember, the larger the aperture, the less depth of field—especially with long lenses. Please see the “Sharp or Fuzzy?” Actual Info and TipsFlick for more on depth of field.) Getting reasonable depth of field is another reason to find a way to steady your camera or increase the ISO. All of the Shaker village images above were made with window light. So were the ones (from various places) below.
Sometimes, like deep in this cave in the Himalayas, you have to use flash. Because I had hiked there and couldn’t carry very much, I had nothing to bounce the strobe off of to soften it. So I just did the best I could.
Objects that attract your attention will usually yield good images. But it requires thought and sometimes patience. Showing them off at their best is all about the light that falls on them. Think about what it is about the object that appeals to you and try to isolate or emphasize that in your picture. Is it the form, the colors, a detail, a pattern? Think about how it is lit, and whether it might be better at a different time of day or in different weather. If so, figure out when and return to it later. Think about the angle. Should you get higher or lower? Move to the side? Remember that the craftsperson put a lot of thought and time into the object. To properly convey it, you should too.
And be persistent. There will always be people and things telling you what you can’t do. It’s up to you to figure out how to.
Actual Info: Text © 2011 Robert Caputo
Photos © 2011 Cary Wolinsky, © 2011 Robert Caputo