01.21.24: A backlit fork

A backlit fork, part of a series of studio photos of kitchen utensils.

A backlit fork, part of a series on kitchen utensils.

Snow, cold sparked photos of kitchen utensils

Reflective objects like kitchen utensils are tricky to photograph. It’s like photographing odd-shaped mirrors. 

It’s easy to explain the creative spark that resulted in this photograph.

It was boredom.

Snow and frigid cold had me stuck inside for a few days during late December 2015 and early January 2016 when I would have preferred hiking through area parks chasing wildlife photos. I decided to set up some lighting in the basement and do some macro (close-up) photography, but I was struggling to come up with a subject. During previous winters I had photographed a violin and completed a project on board games. But nothing caught my attention. So I gave up and grabbed some yogurt for lunch.

I opened a drawer to get a spoon and — eureka! — I had my subject: kitchen utensils.

I spent the remainder of the weather-driven down time in the basement photographing knives and forks. 

Reflective objects like kitchen utensils are tricky to photograph. It’s like photographing odd-shaped mirrors. Lighting had to be positioned in a way to show details without glare. And I had to be careful with the camera position to avoid showing the camera — and the photographer — in the reflection.

But it made for a few fun afternoons. 

I worked on high-key shots (light-toned objects against a bright white background) and low-key shots (backlit objects against a black background, emphasizing shadows). This forced me to spend time on lighting setups, positioning the combination of four lights and various reflectors in ways to create either shadowless high-key images or to cast interesting shadows in low-key images.

It’s a project that kept me busy for a few days until the weather improved.

This low-key shot of a fork was particularly challenging. My goal was to light the fork in a way that the edges were outlined in light but the fork and its tines remained in darkness. I wanted the fork to blend with its own shadow that is cast into the foreground by the lighting positioned to the rear. 

I couldn’t get the fork to rest on the board in the exact position I needed. It kept wanting to tip over. So I used a clamp on a stand to hold the handle slightly elevated above the scrap of wood-grained tile I used as a base. 

It took several attempts and slight repositioning of the lighting to get the shot I wanted. But it was worth the effort.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Dec 30, 2015 12:53 PM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM 
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • Aperture: f/11
  • Shutter: 1/250 second
  • ISO: 100

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