My book ‘The Hungry Eye’ by Walker Evans lay on the bed while I sat back in an Adirondack chair, when I noticed a beautiful highlight scattered across the book's glossy cover and interacted with the glasses. I looked at it more closely, checking various angles, thinking this is interesting. I was being drawn in by the light and the sets simplicity and beauty.
How it all started
As this was an certainly impromptu still-life, I took a few test shots using the iPhone with a Hipstamatic camera application set to John S lens with Claunch 72 Monochrome film cartridge. I should note that only very recently have I started using Hipstamatic software applications and though I have yet to explore all my 18 lenses and 14 films, I have fallen hard for the combination of a John S lens with Claunch 72 Monochrome or DreamCanvas film cartridge.
Contact Sheet #002 - click to view full size version
At first the goal was to capture the set in color because of the book’s red spine, but things were not coming together in the first set of 10 test images. Settling on black and white since I believed the nature of Cluanch 72 Monochrome film could eliminate unnecessary distracting detail and focus primarily on the exchange between the highlights and the pair of glasses.
Now that I have decided what the next steps are going to be, the challenge is now to find the right chemistry in accomplishing what the eye earlier saw and the mind perceived.
Three images later and still dissatisfied, it was time to change my approach and figure out what was not working. It did not take too long, for it had been starring me in the eye all this time, it was the bedspread cover taking all the attention.
Since I had a stack of photography books next to me, I began to cover up the offending area, but more refinement was still required and just to be sure I was on the right track, another color exposure was taken.
One of the problems with the Hipstamatic view finder screen is its shape, it is not a true square, resulting in my having to approximate the cut-off points and this is a handicap when precision is required.
Slideshow - Entire series in chronological order
Now that I controlled the background but also the light, it was time to refine the interaction of a pair of reading glasses with the light, including the book’s cover.
The best four - click to view full size version
Once I felt I had what I envisioned earlier, it was time to edit and select the final image and it all came down to the last four exposures. All four of them were valid but what part of the photograph worked and what did not.
Finally it all came down to two exposures, the last two that were taken. One showed too much of Walker’s face, the other just the right amount to maintain the mystery. Besides the last image part of the glasses showed up better.
PhotoShop screen shot showing ‘Curves’ setting
Even thought the photograph appeared perfect at first glance, I still felt a little post production edit would improve the image over all appearance. So it was introduced to PhotoShop CS5 for minor enhancements.
First I checked ‘Levels’ and saw that no adjustments were necessary. Then, while working in layers mode I brought up ‘Curves’ where slight adjustments were made. Though still feeling the image needed that something, I began dodging the lower left area in order to pick up a little more detail in the book's cover. I also lightly dodged the three books in the background so that they would not feel so massively dark.
Snapseed screen shot showing ‘Center Focus’ setting
After completing the minor post edits in PhotoShop, I wished to see if anything interesting might be produced by Snapseed. First trying ‘Drama,’ then numerous random settings with ‘Grunge,’ even ‘Vintage’ before settling on ‘Center Focus - setting: dark.’
The Hungry Eye - Exposure #33
It took thirty-three exposures before feeling satisfied that I had captured what I was looking for and I probably would have even taken many more had I an adaptor for the iPhone to mount the unit to a tripod, this way I could experiment with different Hipstamatic lens and film combinations. For now such an adopter remains momentarily on my To do list.
Now you might say taking almost three dozen exposures is a sign of not knowing what one wants, however in the real world of commercial advertising or editorial photography, such numbers are low to normal for that one photograph. It certainly could have even been higher had I been playing with different pairs of glasses or experimenting with various Hipstamatic combinations.
Whether photographing a still-life or a stationary objective, it is important to push one self to approach the subject at various angles and contemplate numerous possibilities before one decides it is in the can. Pushing the boundaries not only expands ones own original concept of an idea, it also fine tunes ones senses, synchronizing the mind, the eyes, and the hands with the iPhone.