Having written a rather harsh review of the lighting course I went on a couple of weeks ago, I thought I should perhaps demonstrate what I learned.  So here’s an attempt on some still life shots, of some much-loved pieces that we’ve accumulated over the years from a sculptor by the name of John Edgar.

John Edgar creates objects by cutting and joining stone, usually with other stone but sometimes different materials entirely. Very slow, painstaking work which produces beautiful, tactile objects like this:

calculus series

The second stone is almost monochrome, made of granite and marble:

The last example is very different.  It was the first piece by John Edgar that we bought and is still my favourite.  Seen beside the granite and marble piece it looks rather dull:


But, appearances can be deceptive!  How about this shot?


Made from greywacke stone and glass, joined so smoothly that your fingers cannot detect the slightest gap or bump, this piece can really surprise people.  It sat on a window ledge in my office for a while and when the sun was at the right angle you could see something close to that image.  People would suddenly notice the anomaly, a river stone with some black lines on it shouldn’t do that!

Before I get to the photographic stuff, do check out John Edgar’s website.  Click on the ‘site map’ to get in.  The ‘calculus’ series shows many similar stones.  But his larger works ( such as the ‘Cross Country’ and ‘Lie of the Land’  series really blow my mind.  They look impossible to make.  Read the texts that go with each series too, they give a great idea of what John Edgar is about.

I did say this post was about photographic lighting, so a few technical details here. For the first three shots the stones sit on a sheet of glass about 150 mm above a white card.  The card is illuminated by a remote flash, there is another remote flash shooting down through an umbrella from the right and a silver reflector placed quite close to the stone on the left.  I used the on-camera flash to trigger the two Nikon SB-800s (with a piece of aluminium foil taped on it to shield it’s light from the stone).  A 105 mm Nikon Micro lens (borrowed, unfortunately) set at f22 for depth of focus.  The camera is on a tripod with a wireless shutter release, one of those cheap Chinese ones that works really well.

For the last image the lightstone was placed on the white card.  I made a ‘snoot’ for one flash using some heavy black paper taped around the flash to create more of a spotlight effect and lined it up carefully with the glass panels in the stone.  I fixed that flash to my tripod (I only have one light stand) and hand-held the camera. The second flash, still shooting through the umbrella, softened the shadows a little and lit up the right side of the stone.  That second flash was wound back by 1 stop.

I like this image, it’s quite dramatic.  But there’s more work to be done.  I haven’t quite figured out the double shadow to the right and would prefer to not to have to use Photoshop to get rid of it.  I will try some more shots without the vignetting.  But it was a good exercise, reminding me of the technical stuff Bret Lucas was explaining to us.


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