Garlic Still Life

Garlic Bulb

The truth be told, I have little patience for doing still lives, but I took one of my favorite photographs in a makeshift studio in my backyard in 2011.

The garlic growing experiment turned out to be a great success, providing dozens of medium-sized garlic plants without any significant interference from deer or woodchuck.  The idea of photographing the garlics started with my admiration of the scapes, the elegant gooseneck shape at the top of the stem. Harvesting the bulbs, I found that the underground part of the plant was even more interesting than the top.

Borrowing a very heavy slate that was sitting unused in a neighbor’s yard, I set it on the ground as a natural backdrop for my vegetable portraits.  With indirect sun coming from one side, a white poster board against the fence on the other side provided some fill light.  I set up a tripod, with the arm extending horizontally, to hold my camera still. I’ve got a lovely old Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 close up lens that I found in mint shape on eBay, which is where I also bought a Nikon lens adaptor for my Canon 50D.

Some photographers have been surprised to learn that this is a High Dynamic Range Image (HDR), or more precisely, it is a TIF that was tonemapped from an HDR image created by combining 3 exposures.  HDR techniques can emphasize the mid-range contrast, greatly enhancing texture, which really enhances the roots in this image.  After processing the image in Photomatix, I removed some spots from the slate in Photoshop.  The conversion to black & white was done in Lightroom.

It clearly works better on matte paper than glossy. I experimented with half a dozen different fine art papers and finally settled on Canson’s Montval Aquarelle, a cold press paper without any optical brighteners. That 310 gsm watercolour paper really makes it pop, giving it some life and dimension.  I like the way the picture comes out on the screen, but I love the way it prints.

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