May Painting Challenge – Preview Behind the Scenes

| May 4, 2010
Creating sunlight when it's snowing outside

Creating sunlight when it’s snowing outside

Rest assured that the May Painting Challenge photo will be posted before Friday so you can get a head start this coming weekend on your paintings. In the mean time, I thought some of you would like to see the process I used to create May’s photo. In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I do not have a ton of experience shooting still life. Most of my photo work has concentrated on landscape…until now!

Before getting started, I ran down to the local flower shop and bought a bunch of flowers including hydrangeas and roses for the shoot. Donna decided she likes these challenges too. She was thrilled when she came home from shopping to find a kitchen full of flowers! The roses will be featured in this month’s challenge but I plan to take more shots with the hydrangeas as soon as they pop. They were $25 per pot so I wanted to experience them before sacrificing them for the challenge. Trust me, you guys are worth it but these things are amazingly beautiful! After doing a little flower arranging, I raided the bookshelves for interesting objects to fill out my still life compositions.

I set aside all day Sunday to shoot. I was so excited to get started I couldn’t stand it! Believe it or not, it was snowing outside so the possibility of getting actual sunlight through the window for the shoot was impossible. I had to improvise to get the job done. As you can see in the photo above, I turned our pool table with a ping-pong tabletop into the perfect location for my still life shadow box.

To start building the shadow box, I yanked some old cedar fence boards off of the lumber rack in the garage and cut them to make a bench-like top for the still life to rest upon. The total area of the boards laid out determined the available space for the still life arrangements. I then started placing a few of the objects including the flowers to get a feel for what would work for my first setup. With a decent initial arrangement, I added black foam core hinged with masking tape to create the sides of the  box. I then draped one of Donna’s spiffy tablecloths over the sides to create a nice backdrop. Don’t worry, I asked permission first! Been down that road before!

Creating a faux window to break up the light

Creating a faux window to break up the light

Since I had my heart set on photographing a nice warm light coming through a window for the challenge, I had to create it. To do that, I took my remaining piece of foam core and cut a faux six-pane window for the light to shine through. This broke up the light a bit and created some interesting shadow patterns on the objects and bench. The primary light I used was a halogen construction light from the garage filtered with a piece of tracing paper. Warning, don’t get the paper too close to the hot light as you may end dealing with more than you planned on. I also added a small filtered fill light to the front of the setup to make sure I got some detail in the shadows. One cool thing about shooting in RAW mode with my camera is that I can easily post process the temperature of the light. Funny enough though, the light actually worked pretty well temperature wise right out of the camera.

Now for the fun stuff…shooting. Since one of my Macs is conveniently downstairs, I shot arrangements and then instantly downloaded the photos to process a proof to see how things looked. I inevitably had to move things around a bit and change camera angles to get what I wanted visually. After about 200 photos, I must say that I am thrilled with the results. I shot about 10 different setups and it is going to be tough to choose which one to use. After work on Monday I shot even more…the possibilities seemed endless.

I hope you found this interesting and please check back soon for the resulting photo for the challenge. I think it will be full of potential for your artistic endeavors and I really hope you like it!

Category: Photography

Comments (13)

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  1. Linda Popple says:

    WOW!! I am really looking forward to seeing what you have done. I’ve really enjoyed looking at what the artists have painted in the last two challenges – really awesome work from you and from them.

  2. AutumnLeaves says:

    Interesting indeed, Lee! I cannot believe all the work you went through for this next month’s challenge! And it already looks challenging too!

  3. Dana Cooper says:

    You are an artist in all you do Lee! This looks like a beautiful set-up, worth all the effort you put into it…I look forward to participating. And yes, I like it!

  4. Thank you, the anticipation is building! I have watched your site now for a couple of months and can’t wait to participate in May’s challenge.

  5. Annie Bammesberger says:

    Dang Lee! This is awesome…should I take up painting or go for photography? Can’t wait to see how the still life final looks! Also, all of Donna’s tablecloths are spiffy.

  6. Rodica Voicu says:

    BRAVO for your effort and for the result!

  7. Pam Holnback says:

    This is fascinating! I am truly impressed by all you do! Looks great!

  8. My curiosity is piqued! Looking forward to the final reveal on Friday.

  9. Randy says:

    I missed out on the fun last month, but I’m ready to go for this one. You outdid yourself Lee.

  10. Lee says:

    WOW! Thanks a ton for the positive comments on the prep for the challenge. It really means a lot and makes the effort I put into the photo totally worth it! I will confess that that I am selfishly trying to hone my photography skills too but all the better when the effort is so appreciated by others.

    Annie. Thanks for the comment. You should take up one or the other. Photography might be a good way to start given your schedule. I find it equally rewarding and it really gets your eye looking at the right things!

  11. Julie Hill says:

    YIKERS….what effort! so appreciate it. Can’t wait to get started on this challenge…thanks for all you do Lee!

  12. Carol Nelson says:

    I’m getting caught up on your blog, Lee, and I can see you’ve been up to some great stuff. Love your still life set up.

  13. Lee says:

    Thanks for catching up Carol! You must be exhausted from all the portraits. I have had fun looking at all of them and they are fabulous!