Dramatic still life photography
It was late June and I had put aside the day for a photo shoot. Intermittent sprinkles gave way to rain so I decided to shoot indoors. The clouds had settled in for the day, so I knew the sun would not come around to the kitchen windows in the afternoon. There would be soft, moody light coming in on the scene for hours. I was looking for shadow but did not want sharp contrast today. I was in the mood for some drama.
I snuck out between the rain drops picking all the wild roses I could find. There were white panicled ones with very large, sharp thorns and small pink ones with tiny slivery thorns. (As you can see the thorns and I had a thing going on this morning.)
The pink ones I got from my friend Ruth more years ago than I care to mention. Her grandmother’s home was about to be sold. Together we gathered up a few stalwart specimens to preserve for future generations as she told of her grandmother’s love for gardening. Little did I know how that day would impact me. Imagining her there, tending her garden into her 80’s, I hoped I could be as rugged as she was. There began a life long love of perennial gardening.
It reminds me of visits to grandparents on both sides of my family. Happy memories, strong ones, of a glorious hillside garden filled with pear, plum, and apple trees; rows and rows of squash, green beans and potatoes; and fragrant shrub roses lining the perimeter. I remember clearly the smile on my Polish grandmother’s face as she prepared a meal from the fruits of her labor for her 20 grandchildren. She was a robust woman, always happy, always baking, always having something delicious ready for us to taste.
I have strong memories too of picking roma tomatoes at my Italian grandfather’s home in the South End of Hartford. After we collected only the most perfect specimens, he patiently showed this 9 year old how to make pasta fagioli, adding pinto beans and dark greens to the pot. I can still see the color of those tomatoes in my minds eye. Every square inch of the city lot surrounding his three family home was dedicated to garden. How I loved running around and around the yard, stopping only to inspect the flowers.
These small slivers of time make us who we are, shape our preferences and set our desires. It’s only years later that you realize how important they were to you.
I could not imagine on that day that I dug Ruthie’s grandmother’s lovely little pink rambling rose into my garden, that it would be the bane of my existence horticulturally speaking. It’s aggressive deep roots are almost impossible to remove and therefore got a foothold in quiet a large area. Even so, they bloomed beautifully this year with their ever so sweet, soft pastel hue. And as I style the roses, it brings a smile to my face, remembering that day I spent with Ruth, listening to her relate fond memories of her grandmother, and realizing a dear friendship was formed on that day.
With Heather Maloney playing in my earbuds, I hung the linen over my prop door to begin the shoot. I positioned the set up opposite the direction of the light. As the morning progressed the rain went from a sprinkle to a downpour, darkening the skies and making for even more dramatic shadow. The linen drape further blocked the light coming from the window creating deeper shadows and allowing only a bit of the highlights in the flowers to pop out.
In the editing process I desaturated, bumped up the highlights, and deepened the shadows even further. The result is a bit of old world charm, a nod to my European roots and definitely dramatic still life photography.