Category Archives: Still life

More experiments with Kermadec seaweed

Moving away from the pastiche of  “classic still life”, I have been exploring shooting the Kermadec seaweed, Pterocladiella in streams of bubbles from my previous experiments for the new whale migration inspired series.  Mixed results.

I also tried a very “straight” shot on with the seaweed in a tiny specimen bottle on white. Another reference to the protection offered the Kermadecs with the announcement of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. 

JOH_5206JOH_5177_2_bwJOH_5219DSC_5977

More about #project weed >

More about the Kermadec project >

Crossings: Migratory traces

Inspired by a map showing the migratory paths of whales and various other marine species passing through the Kermadec region I have been experimenting creating images with long exposures of bubbles in a tank. Still in development but I am looking to print these huge and plan to explore carving the map and key data into the frame of the finished work.

JOH_5147

When viewed large this image has a magical glass-fibre look

JOH_5148_tri

I intend to print this one as a massive triptych

data

The map that inspired this exploration

 

More Kermadec Seaweed

 

A new set of raw shots from #projectweed studio.

Once again I am working with Pterocladiella – the only seaweed found in both the Kermadecs and Wellington.

I have taken these shots with the forthcoming Kermadec: Discoveries and Connections Exhibition in Wellington in mind. They are a slight departure from the rest of the “Weed” project because they are not shot underwater. Instead the algae is suspended in a small vial of seawater – A reference to scientific investigation of the region and the protection afforded the Kermedecs by the recently announced Kermadec Marine Sanctuary.

I love the the direct connection between the Kermadecs and Wellington it creates, as well as the reframing of seaweed into a fresh context.

The Kermadec: Discoveries and Connections Exhibition and science symposium will be at the Academy of Fine Arts Gallery in Wellington in April.

More on the Kermadec Project >

More on #Projectweed >

Sirenuse

Kdec_dryset_1-1286

For some reason I have a fascination with bones and ruins. I guess it ties into my interest in our place within the continuum of life and the traces left by those that have been before us.

Whatever it is, people know I have this interest and keep giving me skeletons etc they find. In this case a colleague at Massey came across this mummified bird in a wall cavity and I leapt at the opportunity to add it to the small collection of bird skeletons I have acquired.

It seems these birds find the potential for a easy nesting location just too seductive and end up getting trapped inside the walls – not a nice thought I know.

The name “Sirenuse” comes from the island off the coast of Italy which, according to Greek mythology, was the home of the Sirens. These dangerous yet beautiful creatures, lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast.

Behind the scenes on #projectweed

There have been three main setups for the ‘Weed’ project to date. Each with very different pros and cons so I would not say anyone was the most successful.

The big tank:

upside_downland

A 900 litre monster tank weighing close to one tonne when full. It’s size and location (at Massey University) makes it impractical to regularly use salt water which mean only the most robust seaweed can go in it. Fantastic for large algae like Kelp – see earlier post. The seaweed I shoot in this tank is usually taken off the beach so I am not killing any coming fresh from the sea.

In the setup shown in this photo it was “crazy upside-down day” in the studio as I tried hanging the seaweed, and therefore the entire set, upside down in an effort to get the weed to hang as I wanted. Mixed success – I am not happy with this shot at all but lots of learnings. The tank is setup so I can light directly from below. I also installed a modified garden irrigation hose in the base of the tank to create movement in the tank.

The small tank:

making_Kdec_1-654

Relocated to my garden shed for summer this was the tank I originally used for proof-of-concept but now is perfect for macro shots of smaller seaweed.

It’s size and being at the ‘home studio’ by the sea allows it to be filled with fresh seawater which is much better for the algae and allows me to include small animals in the shot. After shooting the seaweed is returned back to the sea asap.

As you can see in this shot the sets may be small (those white bottles are only about 70mm high) but the can also be quite complex with textured/painted backgrounds diffusers, masks, and multiple flash units usually fitted with home-made snoots, barn-doors and other gobos. The average shoot in the project uses 3 or 4 flashes.

MAKING_Kdec_1-755

This is a typical example of the complexity of the lighting rigs. A snooted flash above, a very low-power diffused keylight to the side and a barn-doored rear flash behind shooting directly behind the bottle through a large diffuser. You can see that the set can be made of pretty humble materials – in this case the bottle is sitting on a cheap baking dish from The Warehouse.

The copy-camera rig:

making_Kdec_copysetup_1-1097_2

The latest experiments have used a modified copy-camera stand to allow me to shoot straight down through layers of clear acrylic trays. I made a base (looks a bit like a Mondrian chair) to hold layer of trays and allow me to light things from all angles.

This rig allows the use of seawater and lets me arrange the algae relatively precisely but reflections are the enemy in this setup so I use black fabric all over the place.

More on #Projectweed >>