Apothecary memories

Posted by on Jan 9, 2011 in Art, Photography | 6 Comments

I tried my hand at still life photography this weekend. My grandfather was a pharmacist and his vintage apothecary memorabilia (circa 1914) was a perfect match for HDR photography. I was surprised to discover that setting the scene was more complex and time consuming than the actual photography plus post-processing. I have renewed respect and awe for fine art photographers like Twitter followers Alexia Sinclair and Viveca Koh who are masters of scene creation and photography.

It took considerable time to decide which props to use, how to aesthetically arrange them and how to light the scene effectively. I wanted a chiaroscuro look with strong lighting and shadow. Given the set up was highly controlled, I was eager to try both a simple 3-exposure HDR and a multi-exposure—up to 13 shots. The shadow and details are deeper in the multi-exposure shots, while the 3-exposure HDRs are softer. Which do you like better?

Below are a couple examples I particularly like. Please see my full set on Flickr to compare exposures and review the EXIF data.



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  1. Heath O'Fee
    January 10, 2011

    Love these setups! I dig the processing of both images, and the composition of the second image is just perfect.

  2. Chris Kenison
    January 10, 2011

    I really like how you’ve set these shots up. Plus, the lightning is really well done! Well done, Chris! Also, thanks for stopping by and I appreciate your comment.

  3. Alexia
    January 10, 2011

    Beautiful pictures… very thoughtful all round!

  4. Chris Wray
    January 10, 2011

    Thanks Heath and Chris for your comments. Can’t decide if the lighting is a little too warm, but a sunlit look is what I was after.

  5. Viveca Koh
    January 26, 2011

    Thanks so much for the mention on your blog Chris, and I think these are both staged beautifully and it’s hard to decide between them – however I think the simplicity of the bottom shot makes it my favourite, I just love the way all the separate elements work together.

  6. Mark Blundell
    January 26, 2011

    Firstly well done for having the patience setting these up, I’ve done a very little of this type of thing and agree that setting up takes a very long time indeed compared to the processing and agree that the lighting is sometimes hard to sort out, glass can be hard to shoot.
    I’ve had a look at the Flickr images and like them all and can hardly find fault in them. If I were to be really picky the bottom of the two is the least favorite from a processing perspective but favorite from a composition outlook. The texture of the paper is slightly too harsh, this is prob from the 2 stop. I reckon if you had a five shot with the one stop or less difference it would be a little smoother. I think this is borne out by the 13 stop shot being a lot smoother.
    They’re all ace though and far better than I could hope for!


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