Kate Winslow caught my eye with uniquely titled photograph of blueberries: YIP 50.09. Allegedly, this was part of a portfolio she put together to convince “Jason” (who I can only assume is her significant other) that she deserves a new camera – or as she puts it: “a fancypants camera”. Her portfolio certainly shows a lot of skill, and she really seems to have mastered her camera, so I would say “Mission Accomplished”.
Before I go on – Jason: If you’re reading…let her get the camera if she hasn’t already done so.
Okay, back to the photo. YIP 50.09 was shot with a Nikon D80 at 50mm with a shutter speed of 1/60 and an aperture of f/8. It contains many of the building blocks of design, but there are two in particular I’d like to point out: Pattern and Texture.
Pattern does not always have to be regimented and orderly. Many people will overlook the concept of pattern in its chaotic form like you see here. What Kate has done here is to bring a new perspective to something we all know fairly well: A pile of blueberries. Take a step back and think about that a moment. Blueberries are common, and it’s rare that you wouldn’t see them in piles like this (at least when they’re not on a bush). In fact, patterns such as this occur all the time out in the real world. These are patterns that we take for granted. Just the produce section of your store offers countless opportunities. In the real world, chaotic patterns are nothing special, just another simple aspect of our everyday lives. But framed appropriately in a photo and it becomes something beautiful. But framing chaotic patterns is often most effective close-up, when you can cut out everything that isn’t relevant.
Texture is also a wildly overlooked aspect of our world. In Kate’s photograph, I am drawn to the texture of each blueberry – the mottled coloring on its skin, the way the subtle indentations capture the light and the way the skirts shade out the cores. Again, this is where close-up photography is effective at introducing your viewers to something that is commonly taken for granted. Many people are fully aware of the fact that the color across a blueberry’s surface isn’t evenly colored. But most will not realize its beauty until they see it up close. Just think back to the last time you got this close to a blueberry. Unless you’re working quality control for the produce store – or unless you’re a close-up photographer – I doubt most people get that close. By getting close, Kate clearly illustrates the beauty of the texture of a blueberry. She has further amplified the texture with the depth of field. Now to be fair, close-up photography often has a side effect of a narrow depth of field, even at f/8 – which isn’t known for a narrow depth of field in normal photography. The closer you get, the narrower your depth of field will be. But back to the use of depth of field in this shot – note the texture on the blueberries closest and farthest from the lens as compared to the blueberry in focus.
The lighting in this shot is perhaps one of the only things I am not enamored with in this shot. Especially with close-up photography, you have to watch your light sources. The light source in this appears to be at nearly the same angle as the shooter. If I were to guess based on reflections and shadows, I would estimate the location of the light source to be slightly above and slightly to the left of the lens, perhaps over Kate’s left shoulder. Not only does this location place the bright spots directly on the front of the fruit, but it also does not capitalize on the potential for shadows. Remember, textures are highlighted best with side lighting. It’s a little to hard for my tastes as well, I would like to have seen it diffused somehow.
Close-up photography is incredibly powerful, as Kate has shown us here. Subject material is all around you – you probably have hundreds of valid shots within a few feet of where you sit right now. You can open up a whole new world to your viewers by showing them things they don’t fully appreciate in larger form. But close-up photography is something that every photographer should explore – it is such a great way to explore your building blocks. It is, of course, my hope that Kate’s photo is inspirational and educational to you all. And I hope that Kate gets her fancypants camera as I am curious to see what she can really do with something more significant.