Wake Up!!!

General Thoughts
Christmas Cactus  © jj raia

Christmas Cactus © jj raia

The new year has not begun on a very productive note, especially in light of the fact that I have barely taken my camera out to photograph anything. I haven’t gotten my self up to photograph a sunrise and have been generally uninspired to tackle anything photographically. I suppose nothing sparked my imagination; nothing to get my mind working in any direction artistically, and I didn’t seem particularly interested in even trying. It wasn’t any kind of “block” that I imagine only writers have; it was simply nothing happened that brought on any artistic movement within me. I didn’t think anything of it, although I have been itching to get out and shoot something…anything. But an object at rest, namely me, tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. So I was simply exhibiting a simple law of physics as stated by Sir Isaac Newton in what I believe was his first law. So the first 6 weeks of the year have been a steady diet of nothing.

Over the course of the winter, we had some pretty heavy rain, and a Christmas Cactus we had in our screened porch, unknown to us, had been sitting in a tray of water for quite some time, and since discovering this, it has not been seen to revive in any way. Many of the “branches” lost much of their color, laying in a limp lump, and it appears the plant will not be coming back to life any time soon. Yesterday, my wife picked up one of the branches off the floor of the porch and placed it on the coffee table and it was like I was slapped in the face. WAKE UP!!! I immediately saw it along with some of the other branches, either in or through the throes of death, in an arrangement on the black panel of foam core I use from time to time as a still life background. My wife and I collected a few more of the branches and began playing with various combinations until we were satisfied with the arrangement you see above. I brought the grouping inside and placed them on the black board on a table by a bank of windows. I got out the tripod, used a polarizing filter to cut the glare from both the foam core and the branches to deepen the color and contrast. The windows were the only light source which I helped a bit with a small piece of white foam core to reflect the window light back into some of the shadowy areas. It wasn’t very difficult to get the proper exposure since I’ve done this procedure quite a few times by now ( -1 stop is a good starting place). The meter tries to overexpose the image by making the black into a brighter tone toward middle gray. Compensating one stop lower brings it back to the very dark value it is. I had to use a pretty high f/stop to keep everything tack sharp without focus stacking, which unless absolutely necessary, I try to avoid. A low ISO (100) to keep noise to a minimum and some cleaning up in Photoshop with a bit of work in Lightroom brought out the colors and textures of the plant and made the background completely black.

I hope this winter’s photographic hibernation has been broken and more inspiration slaps me in the face soon.